Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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the vulgar thief who is crucified at his side attempts a miraculous
deliverance of himself. Jesus had always professed to experience
in his inner consciousness an unbroken oneness with the eternal
God, of whom, as related to himself, he spoke as Father, giving
the word an emphasis deeper than any other man ever gave to
liis claim of human relationship with man or God. Now he
speaks not as if he and the Father were one, as he had often as-
serted, but as if they were two, and not only distinct but now
separated. In its form it is an intensely passionate appeal. What
did it signify 'i lie was a ird man dying in martvrdom for
loftiest and nn>st precious tilings. He was not God-forsaken. No
man ever is who does not forsake God. Is there any better ex-
planation than that in his great spiritual agony there was a sub-
jective, not an objective abandonment? He felt as though God


and all were lost. He was certainly enduring an agony with
which the pains, the fevers, the thirsts, the misery of crucifixion,
had nothing to do. It was Gethsemane's hour and power of
darkness — whatever that was — once beaten down, now risen up
again and rushing upon the soul of the dying Jesus. As it smote
him he shrieked this articulate utterance of his sense of agony.

The light came back to the hills, the city, and Golgotha. Men
raised themselves. The cloud had rolled away, and with the

clearing sky came the loud cry of Jesus. Per-

i • .w 1 1 n • -pi- The n S hfc re "

naps in that darkness the consciences or his mur- .

- turns.

derers began to be painfully uneasy. They caught
the first words of the cry, "Elohee, Elohee." Elijah among the
Jews was the patron of the distressed. Moreover, it had been
prophesied that Elijah M r as to precede the Messias. Some said,
"He calls Elijah." The others said, " Stop! let us see if Elijah
will come to save him." I cannot think, with Meyer, that this was
" a blasphemous Jewish joke, by an awkward and godless pun upon
Eli ;" and yet almost all the strong names among the commentators
hold this opinion as firmly as Meyer, or under some modification.
Could even they indulge in joking then ? The horror of the three
hours of darkness is followed by a scream from the central cross;
and that gentle, holy, low-voiced prophet, who had not cried in
their streets nor been ever boisterous, who had been silent before
the higli-priest, and silent before the procurator, and silent amid
the jeers and hisses of a mob, and silent under that pall of super-
natural darkness, now thrills the multitude by a cry so fearful and
BO piercing that if ever human call had answer from the invisible-
world, and was calling for any other soul, that soul, it would seem,
must come. Perhaps the power as well as the hour of darkness
had passed away. Perhaps Elijah was about to come. Perhaps
the tawny, terrible prophet of Carmel would in a few moments
descend into Golgotha, set free the prisoner from the cross, and
with superhuman power tear down, and with the fierceness of one
to whose prayer fire fell from heaven, scatter priest and procura-
tor, Church and State, Jew and Gentile, and inaugurate the
splendors of the Messianic .reign.

This cry continued to puzzle the materialists who stood around
this extraordinary sufferer, until another saying came from Jesus.
He simply said, "I thirst." Physiologically and psychologically
this may indicate that his agony was closing. The spirit which


had been so strung up that it could think of nothing wlrich merely
concerned his body, was now relaxing. lie was passing from out

the hour and from under the power of darkness,
and dies S om & ou ^ °f a battle victorious but wounded. It

may be noted as indicating him to be in the
full possession of his faculties, in the fulness of his bodily
strength, and by no means suffering death as an effect of cruci-
fixion, seeing that this is only the beginning of that terrible thirst
■which burns in those who are lingering on the cross. This cir-
cumstance seems quite incidentally mentioned by John (xix. 28)
and by some other of the biographers, and yet it is of great im-
portance. In response one of the Roman soldiers ran and took a
branch of hyssop, a plant probably growing near, the stock of
which wo know was about two feet long. So low did the cruci-
fied hang that when the soldier fastened a sponge to this stock,
and filled it with the sour common wine, or vinegar, which they
mingled with their water, it was quite easy to lay it on the mouth
of Jesus. lie took it, and said, " It is finished." Then calling
out with a loud voice, "Father, into thy hands I commit my
spirit," he bowed his head and died.

The darkness which had come upon the whole land had reached
its consummation in an earthquake, which rent the rocks in the

neighborhood, and so moved the Temple that, at
An earthquake. , , . . . ,

the very hour when worshippers were thronging

into the holy place, and the priests were kindling the lamps before
the veil which divided the holy from the holiest place, that strong,
well-woven, annually-renewed veil split from top to bottom, and
laid open before the startled attendants that sacred spot where the
wings of the cherubim overshadowed the mercy -seat in the ark of
the covenant, a spot no feet but those of the High-priest might
tread, and a sight which no eyes but his might behold. The stone
sepulchres around the city were broken by this convulsion in na-
ture, and the stone doors were jarred off their hinges, and a few
days after some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem were visited by
holy people whom they had seen dead and buried.

The Roman centurion who was in charge of the execution re-
mained with his guard through all these terrifying phenomena.

_ They had ceased to amuse themselves with dice.

The centurion. m i i i • 1 • ttti i •

Ihey stood watching the victim. When their

commander saw what was done he exclaimed, " Certainly this was


a righteous man. Certainly this was a Son of God." ITe had
seen men die, civilized and barbarian. He knew what Roman
fortitude was. He knew what the crucifixion was. But here was
something different from all he had ever witnessed. The fact is,
that Jesus did not seem to come under the supreme effects of
physical torture. He did not seem to die, in the sense that the
soul was pressed from the body by pain, but he "gave up the
ghost." It was apparently a voluntary dismissal on his own part
of his soul from his body. No felon ever died so. Moreover, the
mythology of his country had trained the soldier to believe that in
earlier days the gods had come among men. He looked at Jesus.
His' mind ran rapidly over the phenomena which had filled the
last six hours. The conviction came upon him, that if ever any
of the kith and kin of the gods had dwelt in flesh, this was
one of them. The Jews had condemned a good man : that was
an outrage. They had caused the crucifixion of a god : that was
a horror. It was the verdict of a pagan on one of the crimes of
the church. Conscience began to do its work in some of the com-
mon Jewish people. They smote their breasts and went home
from this frightful scene, not knowing what form the vengeance
of Jehovah might take.

Section 12. — From Three o'clock until Evening.

This was Friday, 3 o'clock p.m. That evening was to begin the

Sabbath — the specially sacred Sabbath of the Passover festival.

There remained only two or three hours. Ac-

i . TT , , . c ill i A ritualistic dif-

cordmg to Hebrew law, it one had been stoned g cu u v

to death for blasphemy, and his corpse hung upon
a tree, it must be removed before night (Deuteronomy xxi. 23),
and this regulation would be scrupulously observed on the eve of
the Paschal Sabbath. The leaders of the ecclesiastical party,
who bad not shrunk from conspiracy, and lying, and blasphemy,
and the murder of the innocent, these ritualistic Puritans could
not endure that their feast should be defiled by the sight of
three crosses hanging near Jerusalem on the high Sabbath of
their church. Moreover, they did not know what effect the sight
of the body of the innocent Jesus might have upon the fickle pop-
ulace. The}' might still rescue him. The Pharisees did not now
know that he was dead. They had a political reason, and it


always was the manner of the hypocrite to cover a politic design
with a religious prof ession. So they went to Pilate to ask that the
death of the three crucified men might be hastened by the break-
ing of their legs, and that the bodies might be buried. Pilate had
no care now as to what might happen. He consented.

The rude executioners did not hesitate with the two thieves.

They were soon dispatched. But when the soldiers saw Jesus

they were convinced that he was thoroughly

. ... , dead. It were a wanton act to crush his limbs,


lie had been so good and gentle through it all !
There may have been something in his very looks which inspired
a sense of delicacy. The phenomenon attending his death may
have awed them. They forbore.

John had returned from attending Mary, the mother of Jesus,

to a place of retreat in the city. lie was witness to an incident

which he recorded, probably, to meet a certain

e spear- rus . g0 gg es f-} 011 f ^jg J a y ? hut which throws light Oil

a question important in our own. One of the soldiers, more
daring and hardened than the others, in order to make assurance
doubly sure, thrust a spear into the side of Jesus, and forthwith
there issued water and blood. The remarkable events of the
past few hours, and the certainty of the death of the condemned,
had probably removed all restraint, and any one might approach
the cross. It was so low, — not lifting the body many feet above
the ground, as the painters have it, — that John could distinctly
see what was going forward. When his account was written, it
had not yet been suggested that Jesus had not died but had
passed into a swoon from which he subsequently revived ; but
the Gnostics afterwards maintained that it was not llesh and
blood that hung upon the cross, nor the real Jesus, but a resem-
blance of Jesus.

This statement of facts John connects with tAvo passages from
the sacred Hebrew books, namely, those which provided that not a
bone of the paschal lamb should be broken (as Exodus xii. 40,
and X umbers ix. 12), and the passage in Zechariah (xii. 10) in
which John undoubtedly understood the prophet as predicting
that the people should pierce Jehovah in the person of the Mes-
siah, and should have great grief therefor. But the phenomenon
of the outflowing blood and water brings us to the question of
the physical causes of the death of Jesus.


They manifestly were not the causes ordinarily found in cruci-
fixion. Jesus died in six hoiirs after he was lifted to the cross ;
no other person is known to have died so soon.

, . n i ti Physical causes

boine pulpit orators are accustomed to dwell on ~ d th f J

the horrors of crucifixion. Whatever they were,
they were such as were common to all persons who were cruci-
fied, and may be as pathetically assigned to the thieves as to
Jesus. Crucifixion was not an extremely painful or rapid mode
of execution. Sharp spikes were driven through portions of the
body where no injury was done to any vital part. There was not
a great effusion of blood; sometimes almost none. There' was
not a very great pressure on the wounded portions, almost none
on the feet. Death was not caused by the wounds inflicted, nor
were they extremely painful, as many persons have received them
without a murmur, and survived on the cross for very many
hours, even for days. Some have been taken from the cross after
hours of suspension and been healed. The convict was to expire
by sheer exhaustion of nature and the nervous irritation produced
by the fretting of the flesh where the nails were inserted.

The thieves had as yet begun to show no signs of even faint-
ing. Jesus was as able to 'endure as they, lie was a young man,
a little past thirty. lie had been reared care-

c 11 tt p i tv^ His physical

fully. He was perfectly virtuous. JNo excesses tate
had told upon his constitution to make him pre-
maturely old. He had lived temperately, yet not abstemiously,
allowing himself a generous diet, while living within all the
bounds of the laws of health. He had passed much of his life in
the open air. He had received no special brutality at the hands
of his executioners. And yet the man who might have survived
six days, who, on all known bases of calculation, should have been
able at least to survive the Paschal Sabbath on the cross, died in
six hours. What were the physical causes of his death ? They
were not the processes of crucifixion.

The clearest, most scientific, and most satisfactory answer to
the question is in a treatise upon the subject by William Stroud,
M.D., first published about a quarter of a century

' . ' , . . , 'Dr. Stroud'e

ag«>. All subsequent investigations nave con- tiieory
spired to confirm it. It shall be stated here
succinctly as possible. Dr. Stroud says: "It was aoonv of mind,
pboduotng Rupture of the Heaet." That suggests the call for


proof that the heart of Jesus was literally ruptured. If in his
ease, most probably it would occur in other cases, which modern
science would discover. For the satisfaction of persons not
familiar with anatomy, Dr. Stroud furnishes the following de-
scription of the heart : —

" It is a double muscular bag, of a conical form, lined within and without
by a dense membrane, and loosely inclosed in a receptacle of similar material,
called the pericardium. It consists of two principal sues,
the right and the left, which lie side by side, and adhere
firmly together, so as to form a strong middle wall, but have no internal com-
munication. Each of these is subdivided into two connected pouches, or
chambers, termed auricle and ventricle, whereof the auricle is round and thin,
the ventricle long and fleshy ; the two former constituting the base, and the
two latter the body of the organ. Placed in the centre of the vascular sys-
tem, the heart promotes and regulates the circulation of the blood, received
on eacli side from two or more large veins of a soft and compressible texture,
and discharged through a single artery which, being firm and elastic, is kept
constantly pervious. Returning from all parts of the body except the lungs,
blood of nearly a black color, and become unfit for the purposes of life, is
poured by two principal veins, called vena? cava?, into the right auricle,
whence, after a momentary delay, it is transferred to the corresponding ven-
tricle, its reflux being prevented by a membranous valve interposed between
them. By the powerful contraction of the ventricle it is transmitted through
the pulmonary artery to the lungs, where, by minute subdivision and con-
tact with atmospheric air inhaled through the windpipe, it is purified, and
acquires a bright crimson color. Returning from the lungs by the four pul-
monary veins, the renovated blood next passes into the left auricle, and from
thence, in a similar manner, and at the same time as on the right side, into the
left ventricle, by the contraction of which it is distributed with great force
through the aorta to the remaining parts of the body, whence it was origin-
ally derived."

It is a familiar fact that the sanguiferous system does sustain

sudden and great changes from the influence of the passions. The

glistening eye and glowing face are external indi-

. e e ° cations, while the person affected, if his. attention

passions. ' L '

be called to his own condition, becomes conscious
of coldness in his extremities, a sense of distention of the heart,
difficulty of respiration, and other distressing symptoms. The
effect may be so great as to superinduce death, and may be pro-
duced by any of the passions. History has many examples of
death from joy. Pliny informs us of a Lacedaemonian who died
of joy at hearing that his son had gained a prize in the Olympio


games. Sophocles died of joy at gaining a decision in his favor
in a contest of honor. Livy mentions an aged matron, who, be-
lieving her son to have been slain in battle, died in his arms in
excess of joy on his safe return. Leo X. died of a fever produced by
joy at the news of the capture of Milan. Dr. Stroud quotes many
other cases of sudden death from exciting passions, in all winch
we cannot doubt that the decease was caused by rupture of the
heart, although, for want of examination, that cannot be affirmed.
The following is Dr. Stroud's description of the modus : —

" The immediate cause is a sudden and violent contraction of one of the
ventricles, usually the left, on the column of blood thrown into it by a simi-
lar contraction of the corresponding auricle. Prevented

.,,,,.,. . i ^ The modus.

from returning backwards by the intervening valve, and
not finding a sufficient outlet forwards in the connected artery, the blood
reacts against the ventricle itself, which is consequently torn open at the
point of greatest distention, or least resistance, by the influence of its own
reflected force. A quantity of blood is hereby discharged into the pericar-
dium, and having no means of escape from that capsule, stops the circula-
tion by compressing the heart from without, and induces almost instanta-
neous death. In young and vigorous subjects, the blood thus collected in the
pericardium soon divides into its constituent parts, namely, a pale watery
liquid called serum, and a soft clotted substance of a deep-red color termed
crassamentum ; but, except under similar circumstances of extravasation, this
distinct separation of the blood is seldom witnessed in the dead body. When,
however, the action of the ventricle is less violent, instead of bursting under
the continued injection from the auricle, it merely dilates; but, as in conse-
quence of this over-distention its power of contraction is speedily destroyed,
death takes place with equal certainty, although perhaps with less rapidity,
and in this case as well as in the former one, the blood remaining within the
heart has been divided into serum and crassamentum."

Let us now revert to Gethsemane. There the sweat of Jesus

was as it were great drops of blood. Some passion of prodigious

force was producing a serious disturbance of his

, . ^ r r ,., , Cases of bloody

circulation. JUany cases or. like phenomena at-

J r sweat,

tending like states of mind are recorded in the

books, llervcy tells of a man who, under the long-continued
working of an indignation he was compelled to restrain, fell into
a hemorrhagic state, attended with extreme oppression in the
chest, owing to an immense enlargement of the heart and princi-
pal arteries, exhibiting a slight oozing of blood from the cutane-
ous vessels. The eminent French historian, De Thou, mentions
the case of an Italian officer who commanded at Monte-Maro, a


fortress of Piedmont, in the warfare' between Charles V. and
Henry II. of France, in the middle of the sixteenth century.
" This officer, having been treacherously seized by order of the
hostile general, and threatened with public execution unless he
surrendered the place, was so agitated at the prospect of an igno-
minious death, that he sweated blood from every part of his
body/' A young Florentine, unjustly put to death by Pope Six-
tus V., upon being led to execution, discharged blood instead of
sweat from his whole body. In the German Ephemerides many
eases are given of bloody tears and bloody sweat. Maldonatus
refers to " a robust and healthy man at Paris who, on hearing sen-
tence of death passed on him, was covered with bloody sweat."
Schenck tells of a nun who fell into the hands of soldiers, and,
seeing herself encompassed with daggers and swords, threatening
instant death, was so terrified that "she discharged blood from
every part of her body, and died of hemorrhage in the sight of
her assailants."

So far as I know, no one has yet called attention to the fact
that, while sudden death may be occasioned by joy as well as by

grief or terror, this phenomenon of bloody sweat

The Gethsemane '. . , , . , . . , 7

afc has never been noticed except tn connection with

(jratf menial agony. Jesus had this mental agony
in Gethsemane. It seemed to be in a measure assuaged. It was
renewed when he was on the cross. Did it not terminate in rup-
ture of the heart ? Many such have occurred and been examined,
in which no part of the body exhibited morbid symptoms, but the
heart was ruptured and the pericardium was tilled with serum and
crassamentum, which popularly are called water and blood. In-
deed, the crassamentum, or red and clotted portions, contains " all
the more essential ingredients of the blood," while the serum, a
mere yellowish liquid, " consists chiefly of water." Dr. Aber-
crombie, of Edinburgh, gives a case of the sudden death of a man
aged seventy-seven years, owing to a rupture of the heart. In his
case " the cavities of the pleura contained aim at three pounds of
fluid) but the lungs were sound." Dr. Elliotson relates the case
of a woman who died suddenly. " On opening the body the peri
cardium was found distended with clear serum,) and a very large
coagulum of blood, which had escaped through a spontaneous rup-
ture of the aorta near its origin, without any other morbid appear-
ance." Many cases might be cited, but these suffice.


The narrative of the last hours of Jesus, as we have already
given it from the Evangelists, shows just such a state of mind as
has produced the phenomenon of the bloody sweat

, , , , . , , , . , State of mind ir

m other persons ; and the water and blood winch his last houra
John noticed as following the soldier's spear, are
such an exhibition as attends rupture of the heart, although it
was more than a thousand years after the record was made* before
science connected the two. Every expression of Jesus in Geth-
seinane is such as any man would make in describing sensations
produced by the effect of mental agony on the physical constitu-
tion. On that cold night his was not ordinary perspiration. It
was the hemorrhage which agony produces. lie did not die of
crucifixion. lie died of a broken heart while they were crucify-
ing him. lie did not swoon. lie was in full possession of his
powers, as his direction to Mary and John showed, lie was in
full physical strength, as his cry — his loud cry — showed. At three
o'clock, if he had endured only the ordinary pains of the crucified,
he might have been taken down and saved, as the Pharisees show
that they perceived, by desiring to have his legs broken. Pilate
.marvelled when he heard that Jesus was already dead. The
agony of Gethsemane had a mortal tendency. The agony on the
cross was a mortal blow. It was agony, — not grief, — not fear.
If one sweats under grief or fear, it is a scant cold sweat. In
the conflict of agony the action of the heart is violent, and sweat
is abundant and warm, and in extreme cases bloody. Fear or
grief paralyzes ; agony supplies extraordinary strength. In full
strength, Jesus died suddenly. The water and blood which flowed
from his punctured pericardium showed that his heart had been

Wliat was that agony?

He was not afraid to die. He could have avoided death. He
could raise others from the dead. He was not afraid of men.
lie was not afraid of God. He professed a con-

r • i /-i -i -n i "What was his

sciousness or oneness with God. lie was good. .,

e> agony i

Others have loved him so that they have shouted
on the cross and at the stake, and died, of exhaustion or of fire,
happier than conquering kings. But he, so good, so hnmblo, so
free from all earthly ambitions, so unselfish, — he died of a men-
tal agony, lie had no anger, no bad passions, no sudden dis-
appointment, lie had always expected to die on the cross. lie


had told his intimates that unless lie died on the cross his life
would he a failure. lie did not avoid crucifixion, and yet, al-
though he expired on a cross, he did not die of crucifixion,
lie had a great spiritual conflict ; in the agony thereof his heart
was ruptured.

What loas that agony ?

It is not a question for histoiy. It is a question for each
reader's heart. It could not have heen an agony on account of
himself: it must have heen for others. For whom? That ques-

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 68 of 77)