Sunday, April 10, 2016

Breakfast With Jesus


This morning, the Gospel reading was from John 21 , where Peter and the other apostles were out on the water and had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Then a  voice called to them from shore and told them to try and cast the net out the other side of the boat whereupon the nets were filled to near the breaking point, and then Peter recognized Jesus and went ashore.
Jesus was sitting by a charcoal fire he had made and was cooking up some fish for Breakfast.  Jesus then sat down and started sharing the fish with them .He then asked Peter three times if he loved Him, and when Peter replied affirmatively Jesus told Peter "Feed my sheep".
This is a remarkable story of redemption and restored  friendship, and it was all done over breakfast.
Jesus chose breakfast as the time to restore Peter, since it is the beginning of a new day, and it is also the least formal meal of the day. It was a quiet, friendly time of renewal, and a time when Peter was given his mission.
Since the day I became a Christian, I have had breakfast with Jesus every day . There is no better way to start a day than to rise at the crack of dawn, spend some time in prayer, and then pour out some coffee and  hear from Jesus Himself in the Bible. So for us too, the morning is a time when we can renew our friendship with Jesus, fresh every day, spend some quiet, informal time with Him, getting to know him through prayer and the Word.
 And more often than not you find that, if you listen carefully, he will restore you, and give you your mission for the day, and beyond.
Tomorrow and every day thereafter, why not have breakfast with Jesus?


Thursday, April 7, 2016

The “M” Word: Science Once Again Forced to Agree with the Church

 
 

Every day I thank God for my secular and Post-Modern friends who challenge my thinking by bringing up subjects that inspire me to provide an answer to their challenges.  This subject came up in a comments on an article I posted on FB about Poland ending abortions completely. The commenter stated her belief that the government should lay off of peoples bodies (a matter we will discuss in another post) and also took a swipe at the Church for teaching that Masturbation is a sin.

Yes the Church does teach that masturbation is wrong, and she is regularly caricatured by Hollywood and the media for it. Invariably the clergy are portrayed as snivelling, sneering small minded little bigots who are out to stop people from “having fun” and “doing what comes naturally” or in Post-modern parlance, “being true to oneself” .

Here is an offsite link to an article in Crisis magazine which compares and contrasts  traditional Christian thinking with modernism and post-modernism.  It’s a short article and really clarifies concisely the differences in worldview that are competing today.

For the purposes of this post, though, I will set the stage by stating that Church moral teaching as found in the Bible and the Catechism is based on real world experience and natural law. It is not a mean God who hates it when people “have fun” or wants to oppress people, but a loving father who sets boundaries to protect His children from harming themselves and others.

Christians accept this view, even though there is NOT ONE OF US who fully succeeds in living up to it.  In our own family lives, how many of us ever lived out perfectly what our parents taught us? Who never once tested those boundaries. There. I said it, none of us comes at this discussion as anything more than a flawed human being, whichever side of this we are on, so this is not to be taken as judging those who may hold a differing view, but rather an attempt to show through this particular subject which is EVERY man’s battle to one extent or another, that Church teaching is indeed correct, and that  the teaching is fully consistent with science and reason.

 

It is a fact that masturbation and addiction to it, is  driven by the pleasure principle.  The body releases dopamine and endorphins into the system when masturbation takes place , producing a pleasurable sensation (usually followed by guilt and disgust after the dopamine high wears off) .  The brain is this conditioned, ever so slightly , to remember that sensation, and then desires more. The trouble is, and this is why masturbation invariably goes hand in hand with pornography (in almost 100% of cases)   and in order to get the same level of pleasure, more explicit material is needed , so it is progressive.
This happens, because the habit that is developed in order to achieve the sensation actually rewires the brain, so that it becomes a driving force in one’s life and leads to some real world consequences, because it is actually brain damage.  Fortunately as we shall see, it can be reversible.
Some of he real world consequences are a decreased attention span, as the brain constantly switches over to thinking about porn and release.  This can affect one’s performance in he workplace, and in daily social interactions. It causes physical side effects as well, such as  decreased energy levels and lethargy  in physical  exertion. It affects relationships, especially between couples, as one’s focus  is shifted away from one’s partner/spouse to themselves.   Ask any woman married to a man who is into pornography and masturbation. Invariably he has little time , interest or energy left for her.   Moreover, as sex becomes a mechanical act which can be performed alone , one feels less inclined to bother with relationships with others. If they have a significant other, they spend more time in their fantasy world than with that person. Many single people fid it preferable to bothering with a relationship at all. Fewer hassles.  Don’t believe me?  For one thing, the porn industry has exploded from maybe a billion dollar a year business in pre internet days to well over 30 billion a year today. You can also look at sales of sex dolls.  Men are literally spending nearly $10 000.00 for very realistic dolls who are there in heir closets waiting at their beck and call, so the hassle of a real woman can be done without.   So yes, objectification of women is another result of porn and masturbation. A woman real or manufactured  becomes little more than a receptacle with whom/which to perform a body function.
It robs marriage of its intended purposes.   It also robs a person of mastery over oneself. One becomes a slave to porn and masturbation

I have deliberately approached the topic thus far from  a secular standpoint, as these things that science has uncovered  are true for everyone whether or not they are a believer in Christ, Allah, or follow the teachings of the Buddha,  or are atheist to the core.   You may not care for the moral implications, and wish to dismiss them for whatever reason, but the biological factors as indicated here are proof that the Church has always been correct in her approach.  Faith and reason are NOT contradictory at all, they both actually support one another, and this is why the Church has outlasted every empire, system and worldview that has ever challenged it over 2000+ years.

 

I mentioned earlier how popular culture caricaturizes the church and her teachings.  Let’s now take a look  at what the Catechism of he Catholic Church actually says about porn and masturbation.  The Catechism we have today is a comprehensive summation of everything the Church teaches, and why.  John Paul II had it compiled and released in 1994, in a style hat is readable and understandable by all. Anyone who wants to properly understand what the Church teaches, as opposed to what her detractors and the uninformed SAY it teaches should  read it. Here is a link to it online.  You can also find hard copies in most bookstores, including Chapters and Indigo. there are usually copies available in thrift stores as well.
Now that we have outlined the problem, and identified some of its causes, symptoms and consequences,  let’s take a look at how to deal with it. Again since we are approaching this matter from a mostly secular perspective,  I will put forth some scientific ways of dealing with it. That said, the chances of overcoming such a thing without the help and strength of the Holy Spirit are diminished, in part because one does not get the whole picture, and also because your priest can be of enormous help in terms of guidance and support when (not if, but when) you occasionally fall, to help restore you and get you back up again.

The following comes from a website called No Fap,  and it explains how to “reboot and rewire” the brain after having fallen into this trap. No Fap is a secular site, and offers its solutions to all men, and even many Christians have found their methods helpful.  I would recommend that Priests and Pastors read this material too, so that when dealing with the matter in the confessional or in counselling, can offer some of these concrete solutions in tandem with the spiritual remedies they normally provide.

Rebooting

The Basics of Rebooting

Prolonged or intense exposure to pornography causes the brain to wire itself in ways that can create negative effects in a person’s life, such as sexual dysfunction, addiction, and other related problems. For more information, see NoFap’s Porn Addiction 101.
Rebooting is the term coined by recovering porn users for the process of abstaining from pornography, masturbation, and sometimes orgasm altogether for a sufficient duration to recover from these negative effects. By abstaining from problematic sexual habits, we can “reboot” the brain to factory settings.
Although we at NoFap may have our recommendations on effective ways to reboot, no two people will have the same rebooting experience. In fact, people choose to reboot in many different ways, all of them valid. While we see the individual nature of rebooting as a strength, it can lead to confusion for new community members looking for a clear idea of how the rebooting process occurs. We created this page to help people get started.

Our Approach to Rebooting

NoFap began when Alexander Rhodes decided to gamify the rebooting experience by challenging himself and a small group to abstain from masturbation for one week, and sharing his experience on a Reddit-hosted forum he founded. Word spread about this initial challenge, and an even larger group tried a month-long rebooting challenge in July. Before he knew it, Alexander had formed a community of people interested in shedding habitual porn use and rediscovering healthy sexuality.
Challenges and community are the core of NoFap’s approach to rebooting. By gamifying their rebooting experiences and sharing their experiences of struggle and victories with other rebooters, NoFap’s users continue to find success and live better lives.

Rebooting Challenges

Before beginning a challenge, each user will have to choose the duration of their challenge and what parameters constitute a failure of the challenge.
The conditions for victory in a challenge are simple: if you abstain from your chosen problem behaviors for the entirety of your chosen duration, you’ve completed a rebooting challenge!

Duration

Once you choose a duration for your challenge, it’s important that you stick to it until the end. That said, don’t get too hung up on deciding on the perfect duration for you. It’s best that you just choose a duration and get going! After a period of abstinence from your chosen sexual behaviors, it’s fine to increase your duration if you feel like your brain needs more time to reboot.
Here are some suggestions for choosing a duration:

Fixed Number of Days:

NoFap’s gold standard of success is our 90-day reboot. Ninety days is a challenge duration that is difficult for most, yet achievable. It’s also sufficiently long that most users see marked improvement in their well-being once they’ve achieved victory. Some rebooters will start with this 90-day challenge only to reevaluate towards the end that extending their challenge would be of benefit.
However, users can choose any number of days that they feel appropriate. Some ambitious users will try to go an entire year, while other users are so entrenched in their behaviors that reaching two weeks proves a difficult challenge for them. The key is to choose a length of time that you could look back on and feel a sense of accomplishment after you’ve achieved victory.
Those skeptical of the reboot process may wish to try a challenge for just seven days. A short challenge is manageable for most but can act as a “sneak peek” of both the benefits and pitfalls one can experience during a longer challenge. At the very least, seven days should be enough for anyone to determine whether they have a problematic porn habit; if rebooters have difficulty abstaining from porn for seven days, it’s a pretty good sign that a full reboot would be beneficial.

Monthly Challenges

One alternative to choosing an arbitrary length of time is to take part in a monthly challenge. Both our main forums and NoFap’s subreddit host threads where users can sign up to take part in a challenge to abstain for the entirety of a given month. This can be a good entry point for users who want to test the water with a shorter challenge while experiencing the camaraderie of participating in a community event.

Symptom-Based Durations

Rather than using a set length of time to mark their reboot, some users choose to reboot until they feel the benefits of a healthier sexuality. This is can be a good choice for people who engage in a challenge specifically to see if it can help them with a problem they are experiencing. For instance, someone who might suspect their sexual dysfunction is porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED) could give rebooting a try to see if it alleviates their symptoms.
We recommend that symptom-based rebooters start with a 90-day goal and reassess their symptoms. Porn and masturbation habits don’t cause sexual dysfunction overnight, and they won’t heal overnight, either. The brain and body need time to recover from a years-long habit.
While a symptom-based challenge is a good technique for people looking for concrete results, NoFap does not promote rebooting as a cure for any medical or psychiatric issue. If you are experiencing physical or psychological symptoms that bother you, please consult your doctor.

Day Counters and Challenges

NoFap’s forums provide day-counting badges for tracking consecutive days of abstinence. These counters can be reset to day one when a member decides they have broken their abstinence streak.
The counter is meant to track your entire current streak, not your progress in your current challenge. Therefore, if you do back-to-back challenges, your day counter rolls over from one challenge into the next. For instance, if you choose to do a September challenge followed by an October challenge, you don’t need to reset your counter to day one on October 1st.

Challenge Duration vs. Reaching a Full Reboot

Our rebooting challenges are meant to help a person reboot, that is, obtain a healthy sexuality where they prefer sexual interactions with people rather than a computer screen. However, a rebooter won’t necessarily be fully rebooted at the end of their challenge. Being fully rebooted means that your brain has recovered from the effects of problem habits, namely masturbating excessively to pornography. (For more information on the brain science of rebooting, see our page about porn addiction.) The best way to identify if you’ve rebooted or not is to assess whether you still experience the urges and sexual symptoms you had before starting a reboot.
The length of time it takes for a full reboot is not typically the same as the duration of a challenge (unless you choose a symptom-based challenge duration). For instance, if your brain and body are due for a full reboot after, say, 73 days of abstinence, then doing a month-long challenge isn’t going to get you to fully reboot. This is why many rebooters will participate in back-to-back challenges until they feel they have rebooted completely.
Most rebooters find they have reached a full reboot or at least feel significantly better after 90 days. However, heavy porn users or those who went through puberty using modern Internet porn have found that they need more time. Some people, especially those with PIED, have required a year or longer to achieve significant results.

Parameters

NoFap’s users challenge themselves to abstain from a variety of behaviors. While at its core rebooting involves abstaining from artificial sexual stimulation, namely the use of pornography, users apply that principle using their own set of parameters for a challenge.
Three behaviors that users generally attempt to abstain from are looking at porn, masturbating, and having an orgasm. In the forums and on the subreddit, these are often referred to collectively by the acronym “PMO”. Sometimes users will further abbreviate PMO to refer to other sets of behaviors. They might use PM to refer to looking at porn and masturbating, but not doing it to the point of orgasm. Or they might use MO to refer to masturbating to the point of orgasm, but not while looking at porn. PMO is also commonly used as a verb. For instance, when a user reports that they’ve broken their abstinence, they might tell the forums that they PMOed.
You can find a glossary of other common terms here.

“Modes” of our Challenges

There are three common sets of guidelines which users may adopt for their challenge parameters. These are often referred to as “modes.”

Porn-Free Mode: Abstaining from Porn

“Porn-Free Mode” or “P-Mode” only requires that a rebooter abstain from looking at pornography. P-Mode rebooters allow themselves to masturbate and have orgasms (with or without a partner). While this mode is not as commonly practiced as other modes, some members arrive at the conclusion that watching pornography, and only watching pornography, is their problematic sexual habit.
P-Mode has its own pitfalls. While abstaining from the superstimulation of pornography is undoubtedly a good idea that will help the brain recover, we speculate it may take longer for a true reboot to occur, since a P-Mode rebooter is still bathing their reward system in dopamine by masturbating and having orgasms.
As with PM-Mode, rebooters who still allow themselves to orgasm should be prepared to experience the “Chaser Effect” (see Pitfalls, below), which is a period after having an orgasm where some rebooters are more apt to be triggered.
One common symptom of excessive masturbators is a desensitization of the genitals. This can be caused by a desensitization of the nerves or to a thickening of the tissue of the genitals, and is attributed to the intense stimulation hands or toys can provide, especially over long masturbation sessions. This symptom, known as “Death Grip,” often clears up after a brief period of abstinence from rough or otherwise intense masturbation. We recommend that P-Mode rebooters train themselves to touch themselves more gently or use toys that provide a more gentle, “natural” sensation for the duration of their challenge.

PM-Mode: Abstaining from Porn and Masturbation

PM-Mode is a set of parameters where the rebooter abstains from both pornography and masturbation, but allows themselves to engage in sex and have orgasms. This is a popular choice among rebooters who have partners or are otherwise sexually active. This mode isn’t as commonly practiced among our members as “Hard Mode”, in part because many excessive porn users are not sexually active.
PM-Mode is sometimes referred to as “Normal Mode,” in order to distinguish it from “Hard Mode,” which is the nickname for PMO-Mode (below). However, PM-Mode is not particularly easy and offers its own pitfalls. The “Chaser Effect” (see Pitfalls, below) is a common problem for PM-Mode rebooters. Furthermore, we speculate that the occasional bath of dopamine PM-Mode that rebooters experience when having sex may make for a slower reboot.

Hard Mode: Abstaining from Porn, Masturbation, and Orgasm Altogether

We lovingly nicknamed this mode “Hard Mode,” as many of our members are video gamers. Abstaining from PMO altogether includes barring orgasms with another person. Many rebooters do a Hard Mode reboot by default since they do not have partners or are not sexually active. Rebooters with partners can still do Hard Mode, but will want to get their partner’s on board with the idea of abstaining from sex or learning non-orgasmic sexual techniques. One such technique, karezza, has been successfully practiced by some members of the community.
While Hard Mode may seem like a more difficult reboot than P- or PM-Mode, Hard Mode rebooters won’t have to deal with the Chaser Effect, and they may experience the benefits of rebooting more quickly than if they’d done an another type of reboot.
Still, Hard Mode rebooters should be prepared for several potential difficulties. See the Pitfalls section, below.

Abstaining from Other Behaviors

Rebooters need not strictly limit themselves to NoFap’s official formats when choosing their challenge parameters.
We encourage rebooters to tailor their challenge to their own needs and aspirations. While most members of the NoFap community design their reboots around quitting porn and abstaining from masturbation for a period of time, that doesn’t mean that rebooters are limited to our standard program! A rebooting challenge is a good time to look at some other problem sexual habits. Do you spend too much time cruising social media for sexy pictures? Are you compelled to visit massage parlors or hire prostitutes? Do you engage in sexual fantasy to the point that it intrudes on your life?
We encourage people to use our choose-your-own-challenge model to pursue other habit-breaking goals and improve their lives. Whether you do it after you reboot from porn or during your porn reboot, our platform is available for anybody who wants to improve their lives. Do you drink too much coffee? Do you live a sedentary lifestyle or have poor eating habits?
We find that making too many changes all at once is difficult to sustain, and it is therefore important to be mindful of overloading your list of reboot habits. However, rebooting is a golden opportunity to make your life better, and NoFap is an excellent environment for finding support as you reach your goals.

Habits and Hobbies

In addition to abstaining from problematic sexual behaviors, we encourage rebooters to develop habits and hobbies that promote self-growth. For many rebooters, negative thoughts and feelings can trigger urges to use porn, ultimately leading to a reset or relapse. By building good habits and slowly progressing towards positive long-term goals, a rebooter can bolster their self-confidence, reduce negative thinking, and constructively use the surplus time and energy they will have after quitting porn.
It’s up to the rebooter to choose their own habits and hobbies. No one can tell you what activity will give you the positive boost you need!
For an extra challenge, try adding habits or hobbies to your challenge parameters. Commit to working on your habits or hobbies every day of your challenge.
It is important to note that a rebooter shouldn’t try to add too many habits or hobbies all at once. It is better to start small and excel than to bite off more than you can chew. Choose small goals for one or two habits or hobbies. After handling them successfully for a sustained period, slowly ramp up to bigger or more challenging goals. Refrain from taking on more habits until your first set have become second nature.

Habits

Common habits include new exercise or dietary programs, meditation, or adult daily living skills such as housework or flossing. Some rebooters like to challenge themselves to take a cold shower every morning for the duration of their reboot, as a simple way of building self-discipline.
A good habit to choose is something a rebooter can work on each day. It should be challenging enough to make a rebooter feel a sense of accomplishment, but not so intimidating that they’re just setting themselves up for more failure, which could result in negative thinking.
For instance, a sedentary rebooter will do well to exercise for 20 minutes each day rather than taking on a high-intensity exercise program. Someone looking to eat healthier might do better making sure they drink eight glasses of water each day rather than suddenly going vegan. Creative rebooters might want to finally get that novel written, but a good place to start could be a 750 words-per-day writing discipline.

Hobbies

Working on a hobby is a good way to pass the time. Some heavy porn users may have spent hours each day looking at porn and are surprised to find themselves with time on their hands once they start their reboot. This extra time may lead to boredom, which is another common trigger for porn use.
Hobbies could include finishing a project or pursuing an interest you’ve always been curious about. Hobbies that promote physical activity are a fantastic option. Taking up hiking, fun runs, or a new sport are excellent choices. Hobbies that take skill to accomplish and engage creative passions can be particularly fulfilling, and ones that engage manual dexterity can help keep “idle hands” busy. Learning to play a new instrument or handicrafts such as knitting are good options.
A good hobby provides relaxation rather than escapism. Relaxing hobbies are engaged in deliberately and leave you feeling refreshed and recharged. By contrast, escapist activities are often compulsive, performed as a way of escaping from uncomfortable duties or feelings, and will leave you feeling depleted. Only you will be able to determine whether a hobby is relaxation or escapism. For instance, video games and reading can be relaxing hobbies for one rebooter while providing destructive escapism for another rebooter.

Monk Mode

Conversely, experienced rebooters may choose to engage in a more intense regimen. Taking on an extreme challenge can be very motivating for some people! When a rebooter takes on extreme disciplines during their challenge, we refer to this as “Monk Mode.”
Monk Mode is a loosely defined term, first adopted by NoFap’s awesome community rather than NoFap itself. Some components of a Monk Mode reboot might include unplugging from any media which could contain sexual imagery, including television, YouTube, and social media. Monk Mode rebooters might abstain from losing themselves in sexual fantasy by instituting a “five second rule” for entertaining any sexual thoughts. Monk Mode rebooters in relationships might even agree with their partners to swear off all sexual contact for the duration of the reboot, including non-orgasmic contact.
People doing a Monk Mode reboot might also attempt to include intense discipline in other areas of their lives, like attempting a high-intensity workout regimen or fasting.
One consequence of Monk Mode might lie in biting off more than you can chew. The idea of attempting an extreme reboot can seem appealing in its stark simplicity, especially to pornography addicts who, like all addicts, may be all-or-nothing thinkers. But those without experience rebooting might be setting themselves up for failure if they are unable to maintain Monk Mode and subsequently become too discouraged to try again.
Rebooters attempting an intense exercise or diet regimen with their challenge should do so only after consulting their doctor.

Resetting

If a rebooter engages in one of their restricted behaviors before the end date of the challenge, this needn’t be the end of their journey. Instead, they should just “reset” and try again! Resetting means restarting their challenge beginning with day one and starting again.
Please don’t be discouraged if you have to reset. Most rebooters reset at some point. It’s important to realize that even though your day counter goes all the way back to day one, your progress isn’t completely erased. If you have several weeks or months of abstinence prior to your reset, you brain still gets the benefits of all that hard work… unless you give up and fall back into old habits entirely (see Reset vs. Relapse, below).

Counters

In the NoFap community, both at NoFap.com and NoFap’s subreddit, you will find tools to count the total consecutive number of days you’ve succeeded at rebooting challenges. These tools are called “counters” or “badges” (both names are used interchangeably). When you engage in a restricted behavior during a challenge, you need to reset your counter to day one.

When to Reset

Sometimes it’s tricky for a rebooter to determine when it’s time to reset. For instance, if a rebooter swears off porn but finds themselves browsing sexy YouTube videos, does that constitute a reset? That’s really up for that individual rebooter to determine.
If on the one hand the rebooter’s main goal is to refrain from masturbation, and watching sexy YouTube videos is tempting, then they might consider that behavior a red flag but not really a reset. If on the other hand a rebooter is trying to break a porn addiction and browsing sexy videos on YouTube puts them in the same trancelike state that they enter while watching porn, perhaps those videos should constitute porn for that rebooter, and watching them therefore constitutes a reset.
If you find yourself unsure whether to reset or not, this is a great opportunity to reach out to the collective wisdom of NoFap’s community. Get on those forums and post! Other rebooters will be happy to help.
If all else fails, a rule of thumb here is that if you remain unsure whether to reset or not, you should probably just go ahead and reset.

The Virtues of Resetting

Resetting a challenge is not the same as being a failure. In fact, there are several important virtues that are reinforced when you reset.
One virtue is honesty. Each time you admit to yourself and the other members of the community that you need to reset, you show a commendable level of honesty. Being dishonest, by failing to reset your counter or otherwise misrepresenting your progress, will do nothing but hurt yourself.
Another virtue is wisdom. Resetting is an opportunity for a rebooter to find their “weak spots” by examining what behaviors immediately led to the reset. Once these weak spots are understood, the rebooter can fix the leak, so to speak, to prevent the same thing from happening again in the future. For example, after resetting you look at what led up to your slip and realize you were browsing the Internet on your phone in bed before heading to sleep when you stumbled on some sexy pictures, which triggered your urges. Taking this knowledge, you decide to leave your phone in another room when you go to bed.
You’ll develop vulnerability and compassion when you’ve faced the pain of having to reset. By opening up and sharing your flaws with others, you learn that it’s okay to be vulnerable. And the next time someone opens up to you about their failure, you now have an increased capacity for compassion.
Perhaps the greatest lesson you can learn from resetting is tenacity. Each time you reset your count, it’s an opportunity to get up and try again. Success doesn’t come to people who never stumble; success comes to people who learn how to get up again.
When you reset, the most important things you can do are share with the community that you have stumbled, and try again.

Reset vs. Relapse

It’s important to understand the difference between a reset and a relapse. While a reset means you have failed the parameters of a challenge and need to reset your count to day one, a relapse is a more serious issue. Relapse is when a member of the community who had been improving their lives slips back into old bad habits.
Regarding relapse, mental health professionals draw a fine distinction. For someone who has been diagnosed as addicted to masturbation or sex, a single instance of masturbating or having sex does not necessarily constitute a relapse, since masturbating and sex are both largely considered natural activities. Masturbation or sex can be counted as a relapse if they negatively impact a diagnosed addict’s life. This can mean bingeing (masturbating many times per day to the point where it interferes with life), engaging in risky behavior (e.g. in public or at work), or skipping out on important obligations to do it. However, for pornography addicts, any one instance of masturbating with porn can be considered a relapse, since masturbating with porn is not a natural activity. In fact, for porn addicts, deliberately browsing porn sites without masturbating could be considered a relapse, since exposure to the superstimulus of pornography is probably harmful.
Regardless of whether you’ve relapsed or not, you need to reset your counter after any single instance of breaking your challenge commitment.
Relapses don’t necessarily happen during a rebooting challenge. Some members who have already rebooted can relapse months or years later. For these people, relapse can be a good opportunity to try rebooting again.
If you do think you’ve relapsed, it is critically important to reach out to your support system at this point, including NoFap’s community. Sometimes we need to reach out for help in order to stave off a destructive spiral.

The NoFap Community

One important aspect that makes NoFap’s approach to rebooting unique is our focus on developing a strong, supportive community. While we host the largest porn recovery community on the Internet, our community is one of the most supportive, as well. With NoFap, rebooters aren’t left to read a bunch of resources and then white-knuckle their way through a reboot without any support. Instead, our users are encouraged to engage with other people during their reboots.
Community isn’t merely a nice resource to have on hand. We believe that it’s a fundamental key to recovering. By sharing their successes, struggles, and resets with an understanding community, rebooters are actively fighting against the isolationism and self-rejection that are so often at the root of pornography addiction.
While social media has acclimated us all to surface interactions with “friends” who don’t really care about us and one-time exchanges in the comments section with a wall of faceless usernames, NoFap offers a chance to get to know people on a deeper level.

Forums

The forums at NoFap.com were built specifically to foster a supportive community. Here, members are asked to share their experiences with rebooting and porn addiction. The stories the community shares are inspiring.
The forums are also a terrific place for new rebooters to get their questions answered by members who have been through it all before. Active forum members are often happy to help answer questions and share their own experiences. By continuing to engage with the forums even long after their reboot, members aren’t just helping newbies, they are helping themselves to continue their journey of growth.

Reboot Reports

The NoFap.com forums host public journals for anyone undergoing a reboot. Rebooters are encouraged to record notes on their reboot in these reports as a way to both share their story with others and reflect on their progress.

Accountability Partners

One of the very best ways of staying on the straight-and-narrow during a reboot is by pairing up with an accountability partner. An accountability partner is another rebooter to stay accountable with. After exchanging contact info, accountability partners will check in with each other daily and report that they’ve had a successful day… or that they’ve had to reset.
This partnership doesn’t have to go beyond the simple daily check-in. However, accountability partners often share stories of their addiction and success with each other. Rebooters may find this to be one of the most genuine Internet relationships they’ve ever had.
An accountability partnership can inspire rebooters to push a little harder each day. Porn addicts are often used to letting themselves down, but are eager not to let down their friends. And few things are sweeter than crossing the finish line of a rebooting challenge with a buddy!
Members can find accountability partners on the forums. For more information about getting an accountability partner, go to this post.

It’s every man’s battle, so this is one place (among many) where the spiritual and secular meet. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why is This Night Not Like Any Other?

 

And so the deal was struck between Judas Iscariot and Caiaphas.  The next day Some of Jesus disciples began to ask Him about where they would eat he Passover Seder, as it would seem Jesus had been tight lipped about the subject.
Finally He called Peter and John, and let them in on His plan.  He informed them that if they went into town they would meet a man there carrying water.  They would have no trouble identifying him , since it was not a common sight in the city, as carrying water was considered to be a woman’s work.  The man would then show them an Upper Room where they were to prepare the Passover.   And so Peter and John began the preparations.
When evening fell Jesus arrived with the other 10 disciples, and they all began to recline around the table.  In Exodus and Old testament times, the Jews would be seated around the table, with shoes on, girded loins, and staff in hand, and eat the Passover meal in haste.  In Roman times it was a more relaxed affair, since they were in their own land, no longer in bondage, at least to the extent that they were under Pharaoh. Instead of being seated around the tale , they would recline on cushions, raised up on their left elbow, so they could use their right hand to help themselves to the meal.

 

The Seder, or Paschal supper would begin with the first cup of wine, followed by a prayer calling down the Blessing of God on the wine and he feast. Then  the roasted paschal lamb would be brought, along with unleavened bread, bitter herbs and sauce for dipping. A Second glass of wine is poured, and the senior male present, presumably Jesus, if not by age by rank and he would begin the telling of he Passover Story with the words “Why is this night like no other?” Then the story of how the Israelites had gone to Egypt during a famine, and after Joseph had been forgotten were put into slavery to Pharaoh, and how Moses arose, and the miracles wrought by God  as Moses asked for permission to leave, and then finally the Passover night itself, when death took the firstborn of all Egypt except those of the Hebrews who had marked the lintels of their doors with the blood of The Passover Lamb, and then their hasty departure, and God’s miracle f parting the red Sea so they could cross over to Sinai in safety, and the journey on to the Promised Land.


It was at this point, that the question became why is THIS Passover not like any other?



Jesus knew that the countdown had begun. That in less than 18 hours he would be dead. A pulverized, beaten, spat on object of horror and contempt hanging dead from a cross.  And yet, he still had so much to do and to impart to his apostles.  He was also saddened by the fact that his betrayer sat among the group.  Moreover, the Apostles were at it again, discussing among themselves who was the greatest among them all. Jesus would settle this question once and for all,  before all else.  he rose,  and removed his garment, and girded himself with a towel.  He poured water into a basin and commanded his apostles to allow Him to wash their feet.  In the modern western  mind, that does not seem like a big deal, but in that time foot washing was the task performed by the lowliest of slaves, and there was Jesus, who had been recognized as the Son of God Himself, about to engage in that very task!  Peter saw this and recoiled in horror, admonishing Jesus NOT to wash his feet, to which Jesus replied that unless He did wash Peter’s feet, he could have no part in Him.  To which the always impetuous Peter said “If you are going to wash my feet wash my head and hands as well! “ Jesus replied “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, and he is clean all over, and you are clean, but not all of you are clean” This was his first of several references to his being troubled at the presence of Judas.
He then told them that since He had washed their feet, they were to wash others’ feet, this was heir ordination, and the message that they were not to think in terms of who is greatest among them, but rather as servants.  Such is the priesthood. The Roman Collar is the symbol of servanthood.

 

Then Jesus put on his robes again, and they once more reclined at the table. Jesus once again allowed his troubled state to show, and again voiced his thoughts “I do not speak of you all for i know who I have chosen. But that scripture may be fulfilled, One who eats bread bread has lifted up his heel against me. I tell you now before it comes to pass so that when it has come to pass, You may believe that I am he.”
Once again Jesus looked up from the meal and it was clear he was troubled in spirit “ Verily I say to you, one of you will betray me” . All the Apostles looked at one another wondering who it may be, They started asking “is it I?” perhaps having learned the true nature of man’s heart after following Jesus for so long, that they even called their own motives into question. Peter motioned to John, who refers to himself as the Apostle whom Jesus loved, who was seated to the right of Jesus and said “Ask him who it is”. John Complied, and in reply Jesus said “ It is he for whom I shall dip this bread and give it to him", whereupon he handed the bread to Judas. At that point, John noted that “After the morsel, Satan entered into him” , the implication being that at that moment Judas made the irrevocable decision to go through with the betrayal, and was thus, lost, the son of perdition.

With that, Jesus told Judas “ What you must do, do quickly” , dismissing him.  John, knowing the truth commented on his impressions as Judas made for the door, saying “Now it was night”, implying that all he saw around Judas Iscariot was darkness.
What of the other apostles?   According to John, they thought that Jesus had dismissed him to go buy some things they might have needed, or to give some money to the poor, and thought no more of it.  Even Peter seemed to have become distracted and no longer pursued the answer to the question he had asked. As for John, he may very well have held his silence about Judas out of fear that Peter would have lashed out at Judas then and there.


Judas had just become the first person to ever leave Mass early, as Jesus then instituted the Eucharist. Jesus then got their attention and said “ I have greatly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I say to you I will eat of it no more until it has been fulfilled in the Kingdom of God”. And having taken the cup, (The third cup of wine at  this Seder) He gave thanks, and said “ Take this, and share it among you, for I say to you that I will not drink the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God Comes.” And having taken bread he gave thanks, and broke and gave it to them, saying”This IS my body which is being given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In like manner He took also the cup after the supper saying "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which shall be shed for you”.
He told them many things after this.  (I have omitted these for the sake of brevity, but the accounts of what Jesus said and did at the last supper are recounted in full here: MT 26:1-35,  MK 14:1-31, LK 22: 1-38 & JN 13, 14, 15, 16)   He predicted once again his death in a matter of hours, and gave them a new commandment” “Love one another as I have Loved you, you also love one another.”

As the Seder drew to a close, Jesus warned the Apostles that as Zechariah predicted , “ I will Smite the Shepherd and the sheep of the Flock will be scattered.”  All the Apostles immediately protested, Peter the loudest. Jesus looked at Peter, no doubt with great love-and sorrow- and said, “ Before the cock crows , you will deny me three times”.

And so the meal ended, as they sang the Hillal , the traditional hymn taken from a group of Psalms sung by the Jews to end the Passover Seder, and left the upper room, and made their way to the Mount of Olives near which was Gethsemane, where Jesus would meet his betrayer once more, for he last time.

As a postscript, there is another reason why this Passover was like no other. Only Three cups of wine were drunk. The fourth will come later. Stay tuned to find out more.

 

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spy Wednesday: The Day Judas Sold his Saviour...and His Soul.

 

 
The price of a Saviour... The price of a Soul. 30 pieces of silver. At the time, the sum was worth the wages of 4 months of labour at the rate of a Denarius.  Yet that was the deal struck between Judas Iscariot, and the Sanhedrin, that in exchange for betraying Jesus to them, Judas would receive that sum.

 

Despite recent attempts by revisionists and theological liberals to rehabilitate Judas and paint him as some kind of hero,  Scripture itself, from which we get everything we do know about Judas does not support such revisionism.

 

We first meet Judas when the 12 apostles were called from among all the disciples have all been called, in MK 3:14-15, a passage which ends with “...and Judas Iscarot, who betrayed him”.

So just who was Judas, and what could have possessed him to sell Jesus to the religious authorities who wanted Him dead?  One can deduce from scripture that Judas may have been a bit of an outsider among the 12. All were Galileans except-possibly- Judas.  We do not know for certain, but it is probable , because of his name “Iscariot” which is thought to mean “of Carioth”  that his family hailed from the region of “Carioth Hesron”, in Judea, near Jerusalem. 

Israel was far from a united entity at the time under Roman rule. Judeans tended to look upon Galileans as impure and less civilized than themselves, and this was further complicated  by the fact that the half breeds of Samaria inhabited the land that se[prated them.  Though part of the Roman Empire, they were ruled separately, with Herod Antipas having jurisdiction over Galilee while Pontius Pilate ruled as procurator over Judea in Jerusalem.  Thus an element of camaraderie may have existed between the Galileans from which Judas may have felt excluded. This would be combined with the disdain in which most Judeans held the Galileans.

Another factor that likely contributed to Judas becoming disillusioned may have been the idea of the suffering Messiah.  Most Judeans, who would have studied under the Pharisees and scribes would have had the concept of a warrior-Messiah who would ride in and lead he overthrow of the hated Romans, and a Kingdom on earth. When Jesus turned out to be the suffering messiah, and that the kingdom was to come about after his suffering and dying, he may have wondered why he was with them.  It is possible that Simon the Zealot, who was one of the violent Sicarii before he became a follower of Jesus also saw Jesus originally as the warrior messiah, but it is clear that his heart was legitimately converted, and understood that Jesus would be different.

We do not know exactly when Judas reached the tipping point in his mind, where he, like all of us needed to make that final decision on who Jesus was to Him,  but there are hints that his heart may have turned quite a both before that fateful Passover week in Jerusalem.  Some have speculated that when the Eucharist was first explained by Jesus in John 6, that Judas may have had his moment of truth then and there, but maintained his silence, and control of the purse.  Peter spoke up on behalf of the apostles  when he said “You have he words of life. To whom shall we go?”  Judas , by his silence was likely assumed by the others to be giving his assent to Peter’s words as they were.
But Jesus said “Did I not choose you, the Twelve, yet one of you is a devil?”  Did Jesus perhaps see something he others missed? It could be tat from that point on, Judas began living a lie.

Over a year passes before we read about Judas again., and he surfaces at the dinner, on he Saturday before the Crucifixion. A woman, identified as Mary in some accounts, came in while Jesus was dining with the Apostles at the home of a Pharisee named Simon the Leper.  She breaks open an expensive Alabaster jar containing Very expensive Spikenard, which was reckoned at a value of 300 Denarii, which was nearly a year of workman’s wages, or as Philip calculated, “Enough to feed 5000 people” , and poured it on Jesus, in his hair and on his feet.   All the apostles started protesting at what they saw as a terrible waste.  However, John who wrote about it singled out Judas’ protest,  that the Spikenard could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor.  John’s reaction was to record the incident, once again, taking a moment to take a swipe at Judas, as all his references to the man seem to do, by the snide remark pointing out that “Not because Judas actually cared for the poor, but was a thief, and he also held the common purse and would help himself to the contents.

Finally we come to Wednesdays, and the reason it became known as “Spy Wednesday”. Judas made his way to the palace in which the high priest resided, and had little trouble gaining an audience  there once he made clear the purpose of his visit, to strike a deal whereby he would betray Jesus to them.   No doubt there was haggling and negotiation of the kind one sees regularly in middle eastern bazaars, and the price of 30 pieces of silver  was finally agreed to.  Whether Judas and the high Priest knew it at the time or not, this was to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy found in  Zechariah 11:12 –13 . “So they weighed out as my wages 30 pieces of Silver. Then the Lord Said to me, “Throw it into the Treasury”- This Lordly price at which I was valued by hem.” .

And so Judas, who has walked with Jesus- the Son of God Himself- for three years, listening to his teaching, sharing friendship, and just being in his presence had become a paid spy for those who sought to destroy Jesus, and with he promise of he silver,  he returned to the 12, and would join them for the last time at the Passover Seder which they would eat the next day in the upper room, and where his treachery would be fulfilled.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Could Jesus Have Possibly Survived the Crucifixion?

Every year, we hear bizarre theories about Jesus having survived the crucifixion. This is known as the "swoon theory" which implies that though severely beaten and bloodied, Jesus had not actually died, but had gone into a state of near death and once he was off the cross and placed in the tomb, recovered and walked out. Journalist Lee Strobel, who was an atheist, set out to prove his wife wrong (she had just become Christian) set out to prove that the Christian faith was false, and interviewed experts in several fields who presented their cases so well that Strobel had no choice but to make a decision for Christ himself. he published his findings and interviews in "the Case for Christ". the interview that follows was taken from his later book "The Case for Easter"


Taken from
THE CASE FOR EASTER
Lee Strobel
H/T hwww.christchurchreformed.com

THE MEDICAL EVIDENCE: WAS JESUS’ DEATH A SHAM AND HIS RESURRECTION A HOAX?
I paused to read the plaque hanging in the waiting room of a doctor’s office: “Let conversation cease. Let laughter flee. This is the place where death delights to help the living.”

Obviously, this was no ordinary physician. I was paying another visit to Dr. Robert J. Stein, one of the world’s foremost forensic pathologists, a flamboyant, husky-voiced medical detective who used to regale me with stories about the unexpected clues he had uncovered while examining corpses. For him, dead men did tell tales—in fact, tales that would often bring justice to the living.

During his lengthy tenure as medical examiner of Cook County, Illinois, Stein performed thousands of autopsies, each time meticulously searching for insights into the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death.

Repeatedly his sharp eye for detail, his encyclopedic knowledge of the human anatomy, and his uncanny investigative intuition helped this medical sleuth reconstruct the victim’s violent demise.

Sometimes innocent people were vindicated as a result of his findings. But more often Stein’s work was the final nail in a defendant’s coffin. Such was the case with John Wayne Gacy, who faced the executioner after Stein helped convict him of thirty-three grisly murders.

That’s how crucial medical evidence can be. It can determine whether a child died of abuse or an accidental fall. It can establish whether a person succumbed to natural causes or was murdered by someone who spiked the person’s coffee with arsenic. It can uphold or dismantle a defendant’s alibi by pinpointing the victim’s time of death, using an ingenious procedure that measures the amount of potassium in the eyes of the deceased.

And yes, even in the case of someone brutally executed on a Roman cross two millennia ago, medical evidence can still make a crucial contribution: it can help determine whether the resurrection of Jesus—the supreme vindication of his claim to deity—was nothing more than an elaborate hoax. With Stein having impressed on me the value of forensic clues, I knew it was time to seek out a medical expert who has thoroughly investigated the historical facts concerning the crucifixion and has managed to separate truth from legend.

RESURRECTION OR RESUSCITATION?

The idea that Jesus never really died on the cross can be found in the Koran, which was written in the seventh century—in fact, Ahmadiya Muslims contend that Jesus actually fled to India. To this day there’s a shrine that supposedly marks his real burial place in Srinagar, Kashmir.

As the nineteenth century dawned, Karl Bahrdt, Karl Venturini, and others tried to explain away the resurrection by suggesting that Jesus only fainted from exhaustion on the cross, or he had been given a drug that made him appear to die, and that he had later been revived by the cool, damp air of the tomb.

Conspiracy theorists bolstered this hypothesis by pointing out that Jesus had been given some liquid on a sponge while on the cross (Mark 15:36) and that Pilate seemed surprised at how quickly Jesus had succumbed (Mark 15:44). Consequently, they said, Jesus’ reappearance wasn’t a miraculous resurrection but merely a fortuitous resuscitation, and his tomb was empty because he continued to live.

While reputable scholars have repudiated this so-called swoon theory, it keeps recurring in popular literature. In 1929 D. H. Lawrence wove this theme into a short story in which he suggested that Jesus had fled to Egypt, where he fell in love with the priestess Isis.

In 1965 Hugh Schonfield’s best-seller The Passover Plot alleged that it was only the unanticipated stabbing of Jesus by the Roman soldier that foiled his complicated scheme to escape the cross alive, even though Schonfield conceded, “We are nowhere claiming . . . that [the book] represents what actually happened.”

The swoon hypothesis popped up again in Donovan Joyce’s 1972 book The Jesus Scroll, which “contains an even more incredible string of improbabilities than Schonfield’s,” according to resurrection expert Gary Habermas.

In 1982, Holy Blood, Holy Grail added the twist that Pontius Pilate had been bribed to allow Jesus to be taken down from the cross before he was dead. Even so, the authors confessed, “We could not—and still cannot—prove the accuracy of our conclusion.”

As recently as 1992, a little-known academic from Australia, Barbara Thiering, caused a stir by reviving the swoon theory. Her book, Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was introduced with much fanfare by a well respected US publisher and then derisively dismissed by Emory University scholar Luke Timothy Johnson as being “the purest poppycock, the product of fevered imagination rather than careful analysis.”

Today, the swoon theory continues to flourish. I hear it all the time. But what does the evidence really establish?

What actually happened at the Crucifixion? What was Jesus’ cause of death? Is there any possible way he could have survived this ordeal? Those are the kinds of questions that I hoped medical evidence could help resolve.

So I flew to southern California and knocked on the door of a prominent physician who has extensively stud ied the historical, archaeological, and medical data concerning the death of Jesus of Nazareth—although it seems that, due to the mysteriously missing body, no autopsy has ever been performed.

INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDER METHERELL,
M.D., PH.D.

The plush setting was starkly incongruous with the subject we were discussing. There we were, sitting in the living room of Dr. Metherell’s comfortable California home on a balmy spring evening, warm ocean breezes whispering through the windows, while we were talking about a topic of unimaginable brutality: a beating so barbarous that it shocks the conscience, and a form of capital punishment so depraved that it stands as wretched testimony to man’s inhumanity to man.

I had sought out Metherell because I heard he possessed the medical and scientific credentials to explain the Crucifixion. But I also had another motivation: I had been told he could discuss the topic dispassionately as well as accurately. That was important to me because I wanted the facts to speak for themselves, without the hyperbole or charged language that might otherwise manipulate emotions.

As you would expect from someone with a medical degree (University of Miami in Florida) and a doctorate in engineering (University of Bristol in England), Metherell speaks with scientific precision. He is board certified in diagnosis by the American Board of Radiology and has been a consultant to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health of Bethesda, Maryland.

A former research scientist who has taught at the University of California, Metherell is editor of five scientific books and has written for publications ranging from Aerospace Medicine to Scientific American. His ingenious analysis of muscular contraction has been published in The Physiologist and Biophysics Journal. He even looks the role of a distinguished medical authority: he’s an imposing figure with silver hair and a courteous yet formal demeanor.

I’ll be honest: at times I wondered what was going on inside Dr. Metherell’s head. With scientific reserve, speaking slowly and methodically, he gave no hint of any inner turmoil as he calmly described the chilling details of Jesus’ demise. Whatever was going on underneath, whatever distress it caused him as a Christian to talk about the cruel fate that befell Jesus, he was able to mask with a professionalism born out of decades of laboratory research.

He just gave me the facts—and after all, that was what I was after.

THE TORTURE BEFORE THE CROSS

Initially, I wanted to elicit from Metherell a basic description of the events leading up to Jesus’ death. So after a time of social chat, I put down my iced tea and shifted in my chair to face him squarely. “Could you paint a picture of what happened to Jesus?” I asked.

He cleared his throat. “It began after the Last Supper,” he said. “Jesus went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives—specifically, to the Garden of Gethsemane. And there, if you remember, he prayed all night. Now, during that process he was anticipating the coming events of the next day. Since he knew the amount of suffering he was going to have to endure, he was quite naturally experiencing a great deal of psychological stress.”

I raised my hand to stop him. “Whoa—here’s where skeptics have a field day,” I told him. “The gospels tell us he began to sweat blood at this point. Now, c’mon, isn’t that just a product of some overactive imaginations?

Doesn’t that call into question the accuracy of the gospel writers?”

Unfazed, Metherell shook his head. “Not at all,” he replied. “This is a known medical condition called hematidrosis. It’s not very common, but it is associated with a high degree of psychological stress.

“What happens is that severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As a result, there’s a small amount of bleeding into these glands, and the sweat comes out tinged with blood.

We’re not talking about a lot of blood; it’s just a very, very small amount.”

Though a bit chastened, I pressed on. “Did this have any other effect on the body?”

“What this did was set up the skin to be extremely fragile so that when Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldier the next day, his skin would be very, very sensitive.”

Well, I thought, here we go. I braced myself for the grim images I knew were about to flood my mind. I had seen plenty of dead bodies as a journalist—casualties of car accidents, fires, and crime syndicate retribution—but there was something especially unnerving in hearing about someone being intentionally brutalized by executioners determined to extract maximum suffering.

“Tell me,” I said, “what was the flogging like?”

Metherell’s eyes never left me. “Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. They usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but frequently were a lot more than that, depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows.

“The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely.

“The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. It was just terrible.”

Metherell paused. “Go on,” I said.

“One physician who has studied Roman beatings said, ‘As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh.’ A third-century historian by the name of Eusebius described a flogging by saying, ‘The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.’

“We know that many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified. At the least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into hypovolemic shock.”

Metherell had thrown in a medical term I didn’t know. “What does hypovolemic shock mean?” I asked. “Hypo means ‘low,’ vol refers to volume, and emic means ‘blood,’ so hypovolemic shock means the person is suffering the effects of losing a large amount of blood,” the doctor explained. “This does four things. First, the heart races to try to pump blood that isn’t there; second, the blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse; third, the kidneys stop producing urine to maintain what volume is left; and fourth, the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume.”

“Do you see evidence of this in the gospel accounts?”

“Yes, most definitely,” he replied. “Jesus was in hypovolemic shock as he staggered up the road to the execution site at Calvary, carrying the horizontal beam of the cross. Finally Jesus collapsed, and the Roman soldier ordered Simon to carry the cross for him. Later we read that Jesus said, ‘I thirst,’ at which point a sip of vinegar was offered to him.

“Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there’s no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through his hands and feet.”

THE AGONY OF THE CROSS

As distasteful as the description of the flogging was, I knew that even more repugnant testimony was yet to come. That’s because historians are unanimous that Jesus survived the beating that day and went on to the cross— which is where the real issue lies.

These days, when condemned criminals are strapped down and injected with poisons or secured to a wooden chair and subjected to a surge of electricity, the circumstances are highly controlled. Death comes quickly and predictably. Medical examiners carefully certify the victim’s passing. From close proximity witnesses scrutinize everything from beginning to end.

But how certain was death by this crude, slow, and rather inexact form of execution called crucifixion? In fact, most people aren’t sure how the cross kills its victims. And without a trained medical examiner to officially attest that Jesus had died, might he have escaped the experience brutalized and bleeding but nevertheless alive?

I began to unpack these issues. “What happened when he arrived at the site of the crucifixion?” I asked.

“He would have been laid down, and his hands would have been nailed in the outstretched position to the horizontal beam. This crossbar was called the patibulum, and at this stage it was separate from the vertical beam, which was permanently set in the ground.”

I was having difficulty visualizing this; I needed more details. “Nailed with what?” I asked. “Nailed where?”

“The Romans used spikes that were five to seven inches long and tapered to a sharp point. They were driven through the wrists,” Metherell said, pointing about an inch or so below his left palm.

“Hold it,” I interrupted. “I thought the nails pierced his palms. That’s what all the paintings show. In fact, it’s become a standard symbol representing the crucifixion.”

“Through the wrists,” Metherell repeated. “This was a solid position that would lock the hand; if the nails had been driven through the palms, his weight would have caused the skin to tear and he would have fallen off the cross. So the nails went through the wrists, although this was considered part of the hand in the language of the day.

“And it’s important to understand that the nail would go through the place where the median nerve runs. This is the largest nerve going out to the hand, and it would be crushed by the nail that was being pounded in.”

Since I have only a rudimentary knowledge of the human anatomy, I wasn’t sure what this meant. “What sort of pain would that have produced?” I asked.

“Let me put it this way,” he replied. “Do you know the kind of pain you feel when you bang your elbow and hit your funny bone? That’s actually another nerve, called the ulna nerve. It’s extremely painful when you accidentally hit it.

“Well, picture taking a pair of pliers and squeezing and crushing that nerve,” he said, emphasizing the word squeezing as he twisted an imaginary pair of pliers. “That effect would be similar to what Jesus experienced.”

I winced at the image and squirmed in my chair.

“The pain was absolutely unbearable,” he continued.

“In fact, it was literally beyond words to describe; they had to invent a new word: excruciating. Literally, excruciating means ‘out of the cross.’ Think of that: they needed to create a new word because there was nothing in the language that could describe the intense anguish caused during the crucifixion.

“At this point Jesus was hoisted as the crossbar was attached to the vertical stake, and then nails were driven through Jesus’ feet. Again, the nerves in his feet would have been crushed, and there would have been a similar type of pain.”

Crushed and severed nerves were certainly bad enough, but I needed to know about the effect that hanging from the cross would have had on Jesus. “What stresses would this have put on his body?”

Metherell answered, “First of all, his arms would have immediately been stretched, probably about six inches in length, and both shoulders would have become dislocated—you can determine this with simple mathematical equations. “This fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 22, which foretold the crucifixion hundreds of years before it took place and says, ‘My bones are out of joint.’”

THE CAUSE OF DEATH

Metherell had made his point—graphically—about the pain endured as the crucifixion process began. But I needed to get to what finally claims the life of a crucifixion victim, because that’s the pivotal issue in determining whether death can be faked or eluded. So I put the cause-of-death question directly to Metherell.

“Once a person is hanging in the vertical position,” he replied, “crucifixion is essentially an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation.

“The reason is that the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position; basically, in order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet so the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bones.

“After managing to exhale, the person would then be able to relax down and take another breath in. Again he’d have to push himself up to exhale, scraping his bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This would go on and on until complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn’t be able to push up and breathe anymore.

“As the person slows down his breathing, he goes into what is called respiratory acidosis—the carbon dioxide in the blood is dissolved as carbonic acid, causing the acidity of the blood to increase. This eventually leads to an irregular heartbeat. In fact, with his heart beating erratically, Jesus would have known that he was at the moment of death, which is when he was able to say, ‘Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And then he died of cardiac arrest.”

It was the clearest explanation I had ever heard of death by crucifixion—but Metherell wasn’t done.

“Even before he died—and this is important too—the hypovolemic shock would have caused a sustained rapid heart rate that would have contributed to heart failure, resulting in the collection of fluid in the membrane around the heart, called a pericardial effusion, as well as around the lungs, which is called a pleural effusion.”

“Why is that significant?”

“Because of what happened when the Roman soldier came around and, being fairly certain that Jesus was dead, confirmed it by thrusting a spear into his right side. It was probably his right side; that’s not certain, but from the description it was probably the right side, between the ribs.

“The spear apparently went through the right lung and into the heart, so when the spear was pulled out, some fluid—the pericardial effusion and the pleural effusion—came out. This would have the appearance of a clear fluid, like water, followed by a large volume of blood, as the eyewitness John described in his gospel.”

John probably had no idea why he saw both blood and a clear fluid come out—certainly that’s not what an untrained person like him would have anticipated. Yet John’s description is consistent with what modern medicine would expect to have happened. At first this would seem to give credibility to John being an eyewitness; however, there seemed to be one big flaw in all this.

I pulled out my Bible and flipped to John 19:34. “Wait a minute, Doc,” I protested. “When you carefully read what John said, he saw ‘blood and water’ come out; he intentionally put the words in that order. But according to you, the clear fluid would have come out first. So there’s a significant discrepancy here.”

Metherell smiled slightly. “I’m not a Greek scholar,” he replied, “but according to people who are, the order of words in ancient Greek was determined not necessarily by sequence but by prominence. This means that since there was a lot more blood than water, it would have made sense for John to mention the blood first.”

I conceded the point but made a mental note to confirm it myself later. “At this juncture,” I said, “what would Jesus’ condition have been?”

Metherell’s gaze locked with mine. He replied with authority, “There was absolutely no doubt that Jesus was dead.”

ANSWERING THE SKEPTICS

Dr. Metherell’s assertion seemed well supported by the evidence. But there were still some details I wanted to address—as well as at least one soft spot in his account that could very well undermine the credibility of the biblical account.

“The gospels say the soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals being crucified with Jesus,” I said. “Why would they have done that?”

“If they wanted to speed up death—and with the Sabbath and Passover coming, the Jewish leaders certainly wanted to get this over before sundown—the Romans would use the steel shaft of a short Roman spear to shatter the victim’s lower leg bones. This would prevent him from pushing up with his legs so he could breathe, and death by asphyxiation would result in a matter of minutes.

“Of course, we’re told in the New Testament that Jesus’ legs were not broken, because the soldiers had already determined that he was dead, and they just used the spear to confirm it. This fulfilled another Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah, which is that his bones would remain unbroken.”

Again I jumped in. “Some people have tried to cast doubt on the gospel accounts by attacking the crucifixion story,” I said. “For instance, an article in the Harvard Theological Review concluded many years ago that there was ‘astonishing little evidence that the feet of a crucified person were ever pierced by nails.’ Instead, the article said, the victim’s hands and feet were tied to the cross by ropes.

Won’t you concede that this raises credibility problems with the New Testament account?”

Dr. Metherell moved forward until he was sitting on the edge of his chair. “No,” he said, “because archaeology has now established that the use of nails was historical—although I’ll certainly concede that ropes were indeed sometimes used.”

“What’s the evidence?”

“In 1968 archaeologists in Jerusalem found the remains of about three dozen Jews who had died during the uprising against Rome around AD 70. One victim, whose name was apparently Yohanan, had been crucified. And sure enough, they found a seven-inch nail still driven into his feet, with small pieces of olive wood from the cross still attached. This was excellent archaeological confirmation of a key detail in the gospels’ description of the Crucifixion.”

Touché, I thought. “But one other point of dispute concerns the expertise of the Romans to determine whether Jesus was dead,” I pointed out. “These people were very primitive in terms of their understanding of medicine and anatomy and so forth—how do we know they weren’t just mistaken when they declared that Jesus was no longer living?”

“I’ll grant you that these soldiers didn’t go to medical school. But remember that they were experts in killing people—that was their job, and they did it very well. They knew without a doubt when a person was dead, and really it’s not so terribly difficult to figure out.

“Besides, if a prisoner somehow escaped, the responsible soldiers would be put to death themselves, so they had a huge incentive to make absolutely sure that each and every victim was dead when he was removed from the cross.”

THE FINAL ARGUMENT

Appealing to history and medicine, to archaeology and even Roman military rules, Metherell had closed every loophole: Jesus could not have come down from the cross alive. But still, I pushed him further. “Is there any possible way—any possible way—that Jesus could have survived this?”

Metherell shook his head and pointed his finger at me for emphasis. “Absolutely not,” he said. “Remember that he was already in hypovolemic shock from the massive blood loss even before the crucifixion started. He couldn’t possibly have faked his death, because you can’t fake the inability to breathe for long. Besides, the spear thrust into his heart would have settled the issue once and for all. And the Romans weren’t about to risk their own death by allowing him to walk away alive.”

“So,” I said, “when someone suggests to you that Jesus merely swooned on the cross—”

“I tell them it’s impossible. It’s a fanciful theory without any possible basis in fact.”

Yet I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the issue. At the risk of frustrating the doctor, I said, “Let’s speculate that the impossible happened and that Jesus somehow managed to survive the crucifixion. Let’s say he was able to escape from his linen wrappings, roll the huge rock away from the mouth of his tomb, and get past the Roman soldiers who were standing guard. Medically speaking, what condition would he have been in after he tracked down his disciples?”

Metherell was reluctant to play that game. “Again,” he stressed, becoming a bit more animated, “there’s just no way he could have survived the cross.

“But if he had, how could he walk around after nails had been driven through his feet? How could he have appeared on the road to Emmaus just a short time later, strolling for long distances? How could he have used his arms after they were stretched and pulled from their joints?

Remember, he also had massive wounds on his back and a spear wound to his chest.”

Then he paused. Something clicked in his mind, and now he was ready to make a closing point that would drive a final stake through the heart of the swoon theory once and for all. It was an argument that nobody has been able to refute ever since it was first advanced by German theologian David Strauss in 1835.

“Listen,” Metherell said, “a person in that kind of pathetic condition would never have inspired his disciples to go out and proclaim that he’s the Lord of life who had triumphed over the grave.

“Do you see what I’m saying? After suffering that horrible abuse, with all the catastrophic blood loss and trauma, he would have looked so pitiful that the disciples would never have hailed him as a victorious conqueror of death; they would have felt sorry for him and tried to nurse him back to health.

“So it’s preposterous to think that if he had appeared to them in that awful state, his followers would have been prompted to start a worldwide movement based on the hope that someday they too would have a resurrection body like his. There’s just no way.”

A QUESTION FOR THE HEART

Convincingly, masterfully, Metherell had established his case beyond a reasonable doubt. He had done it by focusing exclusively on the “how” question: How was Jesus executed in a way that absolutely ensured his death? But as we ended, I sensed that something was missing. I had tapped into his knowledge, but I hadn’t touched his heart.

So as we stood to shake hands, I felt compelled to ask the “why” question that begged to be posed.

“Alex, before I go, let me ask your opinion about something—not your medical opinion, not your scientific evaluation, just something from your heart.”

I felt him let down his guard a bit. “Yes,” he said, “I’ll try.”

“Jesus intentionally walked into the arms of his betrayer, he didn’t resist arrest, he didn’t defend himself at his trial—it was clear that he was willingly subjecting himself to what you’ve described as a humiliating and agonizing form of torture. And I’d like to know why. What could possibly have motivated a person to agree to endure this sort of punishment?”

Alexander Metherell—the man this time, not the doctor—searched for the right words.

“Frankly, I don’t think a typical person could have done it,” he finally replied. “But Jesus knew what was coming, and he was willing to go through it, because this was the only way he could redeem us—by serving as our substitute and paying the death penalty that we deserve because of our rebellion against God. That was his whole mission in coming to earth.”

Having said that, I could still sense that Metherell’s relentlessly rational, logical, and organized mind was continuing to crunch down my question to its most basic,
nonreducible answer.

“So when you ask what motivated him,” he concluded, “well . . . I suppose the answer can be summed up in one word—and that would be love.”

As I drove away that night, it was this answer that played over and over in my mind. All in all, my interview with Metherell had been thoroughly helpful. He had persuasively established that Jesus could not have survived the ordeal of the cross, a form of cruelty so vile that the Romans exempted their own citizens from it, except for cases of high treason.

Metherell’s conclusions were consistent with the findings of other physicians who have carefully studied the issue. Among them is Dr. William D. Edwards, whose 1986 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded, “Clearly, the weight of the historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted.... Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”

Those who seek to explain away the resurrection of Jesus by claiming that he somehow escaped the clutches of death at Golgotha need to offer a more plausible theory that fits the facts.

And then they too must end up pondering the haunting question that all of us need to consider: What could possibly have motivated Jesus to willingly allow himself to be degraded and brutalized the way that he did?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Medical Aspects of the Crucifiction: What He Endured For Us.

Every year, I post this during Holy Week as we journey with Christ to His Cross and resurrection. It has always been my most popular post of the year in terms of hits, which shows us that Jesus is more relevant in our age than ever before.  We live in a time where it has been revealed that our foundations were built on sand and the storm that is buffeting us all is showing us we need to get to work building on solid ground. Thus people are searching for Truth. May this be of help in finding the Truth, which is a person, Jesus Christ.

Compiled by David Terasaka, M.D. ©1996. All Rights Reserved, David Terasaka, M.D. However, permission is hereby granted to copy and distribute free of charge for non-commercial purposes only.

Heb 12:2 - "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

In the last few hours of Jesus' life what did He endure, and what shame did He suffer?

EXCRUCIATE: to cause great agony, torment

Latin : ex : out of, from cruciate : cross

"from the cross"

The tone of this presentation can best be summarized in the word "excruciate", (the root of the word "excruciating") which refers to something which causes great agony or torment. The Latin roots of the word are :"ex", meaning from or out of, and "cruciate", meaning cross. The word "excruciate" comes from the Latin for "from, or out of, the cross".(Websters)

GENERAL OVERVIEW

Jesus spent the last hours before the crucifixion at several places in Jerusalem. He started the evening in the Upper Room, in southwest Jerusalem. At the Last Supper, He told the disciples that His body and His blood were to be given for them.(Matt 26: 26-29) He went outside of the city to the Garden of Gethesemane. He was then arrested and brought back to the to the palace of the High Priest. where He was questioned by Annas, a former High Priest, and Caiaphas, Annas' son in law . Afterwards, He was tried by the Sanhedrin, and found to be guilty of blasphemy by proclaiming Himself the Son of God. He was sentenced to the death penalty. Since only the Romans were able to execute criminals, He was sent to Pontius Pilate at the Antonia Fortress. Pilate, not finding anything wrong, sent Him to King Herod , who returned Him back to Pilate. Pilate, submitting to the pressure of the crowd, then ordered that Jesus be flogged and crucified. He was finally led out of the city walls to be crucified at Calvary.

THE HEALTH OF JESUS AND DEMANDS OF THE ORDEAL

It is reasonable to assume that Jesus was in good health prior to the ordeal that He faced in the hours before His death. Having been a carpenter and traveling throughout the land during His ministry would have required that He would be in good physical condition. Before the crucifixion, however, He was forced to walk 2.5 miles over a sleepless night, during which He suffered great anguish through His six trials, was mocked, ridiculed and severely beaten, and was abandoned by His friends and Father. (Edwards)

THE UPPER ROOM OR CENACULUM



The ordeal began in an upper room of a house at what we now call the Last Supper, where Jesus, in giving the first communion, predicted that His body and blood would be given.(Matt 26:17-29) Today in Jerusalem, one can visit the Cenacle or Cenaculum (Latin for dining hall), a room which is built over what is believed to be the site of the Upper Room, (Kollek) which was located on the southwestern aspect of the old city.

GETHESEMANE : oil press



Luke 22:44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

"the Spirit of God ....crushed"

From the upper room, Jesus went outside of the city walls where he spent time in prayer at the Garden of Gethesemane. The garden has many ancient olive trees today, some of which may have grown from the roots of the trees that were present in Jesus' time. (All trees in and around Jerusalem were cut down when the Romans conquered the city in 70 A.D. Olive trees can regenerate from their roots and live for thousands of years.) The name "Gethesemane", comes from the Hebrew Gat Shmanim, meaning "oil press" (Kollek). Since "oil" is used in the Bible to symbolize the Holy Spirit, it may be said that the garden is where "the Spirit of God was crushed".(Missler). It was here that Jesus agonized in prayer over what was to occur. It is significant that this is the only place in the KJV where the word "agony" is mentioned.(Strong's concordance) The Greek word for agony means to be "engaged in combat" (Pink) Jesus agonizes over what He is to go through, feeling that He is at the point of death.(Mark14:34) Yet He prays, "Not my will, but thine be done."

Of medical significance is that Luke mentions Him as having sweat like blood. The medical term for this, "hemohidrosis" or "hematidrosis" has been seen in patients who have experienced, extreme stress or shock to their systems. (Edwards) The capillaries around the sweat pores become fragile and leak blood into the sweat. A case history is recorded in which a young girl who had a fear of air raids in WW1 developed the condition after a gas explosion occurred in the house next door.(Scott)) Another report mentions a nun who, as she was threatened with death by the swords of the enemy soldiers," was so terrified that she bled from every part of her body and died of hemorrhage in the sight of her assailants."(Grafenberg) As a memorial to Jesus' ordeal, a church which now stands in Gethesemane is known as the Church of the Agony. (also called the Church of the Nations because many nations donated money to its construction.(Kollek)

ABANDONED BY MAN



Matthew 26:56: "Then all the disciples deserted him and fled."

Psa 22:11: "Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help."

While in Gethesemane, Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Jews. His disciples all desert Him, even at the expense of running away naked (Mark 14:51-52). He is bound (John 18:12) then brought back to the city to the court of the High Priest, which is located near the Upper room.

ILLEGAL ASPECTS OF THE TRIAL OF JESUS




Following are some of the illegal aspects of the trial of Jesus:
Trials could occur only in the regular meeting places of the Sanhedrin (not in the palace of the High Priest)
Trials could not occur on the eve of the Sabbath or Feast Days or at night
A sentence of 'guilty' might only be pronounced on the day following the trial
THE ISSUE OF WITNESSES

Deut 19:15: "One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses."

Deut 17:6: "On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness."

Mark 14:56: "Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree."

While in the court of the High Priest, He was questioned by Annas (John 18:13) and struck by a soldier (John 18: 22). He was then brought to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. who sought to put Jesus to death by the false testimony of many witnesses. The witnesses brought against Him did not agree. By the law, no one could be put to death without the agreement of two or three witnesses. Although the witnesses did not agree, He was found guilty of blasphemy when He told them of His identity as the Son of God. He was sentenced to death. Jesus suffered ridicule from the palace guards, who spat on Him, beat Him and slapped Him on the face.(Mark 14:65.) During the trial, Peter denies Him three times. The proceedings of Jesus' trial violated many of the laws of His society. Among some of the other broken laws were:(Bucklin)

Any arrest could not be made at night.
The time and date of the trial were illegal because it took place at night and on the eve of the Sabbath. This time precluded any chance for the required adjournment to the next day in the event of a conviction.
The Sanhedrin was without authority to instigate charges. It was only supposed to investigate charges brought before it. In Jesus' trial, the court itself formulated the charges.
The charges against Jesus were changed during the trial. He was initially charged with blasphemy based upon His statement that He would be able to destroy and rebuild the Temple of God within three days, as well as His claim to be the Son of God. When He was brought before Pilate, the charge was that Jesus was a King and did not advocate paying taxes to the Romans.
As stated above, the requirement of two witnesses in agreement to merit the death penalty was not met.
The court did not meet in the regular meeting place of the Sanhedrin, as required by Jewish law.
Christ was not permitted a defense. Under Jewish law, an exhaustive search into the facts presented by the witnesses should have occurred.
The Sanhedrin pronounced the death sentence. Under law, the Sanhedrin were not allowed to convict and put the death sentence into effect. (John 18:31)
Today, one can visit the palace of the High Priest. where one can stand in the midst of the ruins of the courtyard. A model of the structure in Jesus' time is available for viewing.

PILATE'S VERDICT

Mark 15:15 - "Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified."



The Sanhedrin met early the next morning and sentenced Him to death. (Matthew 27:1) Because the Jews were not, and the Romans were, able to carry out an execution, Jesus was brought before Pilate. The charge was now changed to an allegation that Jesus claimed to be King and forbade the nation to pay taxes to Caesar. (Luke 23:5) In spite of all the charges, Pilate finds nothing wrong. He sends Jesus to Herod. Jesus is speechless before Herod, except to affirm that He is King of the Jews. Herod sends Him back to Pilate. Pilate is unable to convince the crowds of Jesus' innocence and orders Jesus to be put to death. Some sources state that it was Roman law that a criminal that was to be crucified had to be flogged first.(McDowell) Others believe that Jesus was flogged first by Pilate in the hope of getting Him off with a lighter punishment .(Davis) In spite of his efforts, the Jews allow Barabbas to be released and demand that Jesus be crucified, even crying that ,"His blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:25) Pilate hands Jesus over to be flogged and crucified.

It is at this point that Jesus suffers a severe physical beating. (Edwards) During a flogging, a victim was tied to a post, leaving his back entirely exposed. The Romans used a whip, called a flagrum or flagellum which consisted of small pieces of bone and metal attached to a number of leather strands. The number of strikes is not recorded in the gospels. The number of blows in Jewish law was set in Deuteronomy 25:3 at forty, but later reduced to 39 to prevent excessive blows by a counting error. (Holmans). The victim often died from the beating. (39 hits were believed to bring the criminal to "one from death".) Roman law did not put any limits on the number of blows given. (McDowell) During the flogging, the skin was stripped from the back, exposing a bloody mass of muscle and bone ("hamburger " : Metherall). Extreme blood loss occurred from this beating, weakening the victim. perhaps to the point of being unconscious.

ROMAN SOLDIERS MOCK AND BEAT JESUS

Matthew 27:28-30 (The soldiers) stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Jesus was then beaten by the Roman soldiers. In mockery, they dressed Him in what was probably the cloak of a Roman officer, which was colored dark purple or scarlet .(Amplified Bible) He also wore the crown of thorns. Unlike the traditional crown which is depicted by an open ring, the actual crown of thorns may have covered the entire scalp.(Lumpkin) The thorns may have been 1 to 2 inches long. The gospels state that the Roman soldiers continued to beat Jesus on the head. The blows would drive the thorns into the scalp (one of the most vascular areas of the body) and forehead, causing severe bleeding.

THE CROWN OF THORNS AND THE ROBE



Genesis 3:17-18: "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field."Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." The significance of the scarlet robe and crown of thorns is to emphasize Jesus' taking the sins of the world upon His body. The Bible describes sin by the color of scarlet (Is 1:18) and that thorns first appeared after the fall, as a sign of the curse. Thus, the articles that He wore are symbols to show that Jesus took on the sins (and the curse) of the world upon Himself. It is not clear that He wore the crown of thorns on the cross. Matthew describes that the Romans removed His clothes after the beating, and that they put His own clothes back on Him. (Matt 27:31)

THE SEVERITY OF THE BEATING

Isaiah 50:6: "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting."
Isaiah 52:14: "..... Just as there were many who were appalled at him -- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness--"

The severity of the beating is not detailed in the gospels. However, in the book of Isaiah, it suggests that the Romans pulled out His beard.(Isaiah 50:8) . It is also mentions that Jesus was beaten so severely that His form did not look like that of "a son of a man" i.e. that of a human being. The literal translation of the verse reads, "So marred from the form of man was His aspect, that His appearance was not as that of a son of a man." People were appalled to look at Him (Isaiah 52:13). His disfigurement may explain why He was not easily recognized in His post resurrection appearances.(Missler) Today, one can visit a site known as the Lithostrotos, traditionally believed to be the floor of the Antonio Fortress.(although recent excavations may cast doubt on this theory (Gonen)) The floor is marked for games once played by the Roman soldiers

From the beating, Jesus walked on a path, now known as the Via Dolorosa or the "way of suffering", to be crucified at Golgotha. The total distance has been estimated at 650 yards. (Edwards). A narrow street of stone, it was probably surrounded by markets in Jesus' time. He was led through the crowded streets carrying the crossbar of the cross(called a patibulum) across His shoulders. The crossbar probably weighed between 80 to 110 pounds. He was surrounded by a guard of Roman soldiers, one of which carried a titulus, a sign which announced His crime of being "the King of the Jews" in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. On the way, He was unable to carry the cross. Some theorize that he may have fallen while going down the steps of the Antonio Fortress. A fall with the heavy patibulum on His back may have led to a contusion of the heart, predisposing His heart to rupture on the cross. (Ball) Simon of Cyrene (currently North Africa (Tripoli)), who apparently was affected by these events, was summoned to help.

The present Via Dolorosa was marked in the 16th century as the route over which Christ was led to His crucifixion.(Magi) As is the location of Calvary, the true location of the Via Dolorosa is disputed. Much tradition as to what happened to Jesus is encountered on the Via Dolorosa today. There are 14 stations of 'events' that occurred and 9 churches on the way today. The stations of the cross were established in the 1800's. (Magi) Today, there is one section of the path where one can walk on the stones which were used during Jesus time.

SUFFERING ON THE CROSS



Psalm 22:16-17: Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me."
The crucifixion event is prophesied in several places throughout the Old Testament. One of the most striking is recorded in Isaiah 52:13 ,where it says that , "My servant will act wisely (or prosper) .He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted." In John 3, Jesus talks about His fulfillment of that prophecy when He says, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life." He refers to the events recorded in Numbers 21:6-9. The Lord had sent a plague of fiery serpents on the people of Israel and they bit the people so that many of the people died. After the people confessed their sin to Moses, the Lord for gave them by having a bronze serpent made. Bronze is a symbol for judgment and the serpent is a symbol of the curse. Whoever was bitten by a serpent and then looked at the bronze serpent, was saved from death.. These verses are prophecies that point to the crucifixion, in the Jesus would be (lifted up ) on the cross for the judgment of sin, so that whoever believed in Him should not die (an eternal death), but live an eternal life. II Cor 5 :21 amplifies this point, in that "He (the Father) made Him who knew no sin (the Son) to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."(Pink) It is interesting that the sign of Aesculapius which is the symbol of the medical profession today, had its roots from the making of the bronze serpent.(Metherall) Indeed, Jesus is the healer of all! Jesus is led to the place of the skull (Latin Calvary, Aramaic :Golgotha) to be crucified. The actual location of Calvary is also in dispute. At the end of the Via Dolorosa, there is a "T intersection". If one turns left, we go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. If one turns to the right, one goes to Gordon's Calvary. The Church of the Holy sepulcher has long been believed to be the traditional site of the crucifixion.

Gordon's Calvary has a possible prophetic reason for being the actual site of the crucifixion .In Genesis 22, Abraham is tested by God to sacrifice Isaac on the top of a mountain. Realizing that he is acting out a prophecy, that "God Himself will provide a Lamb" , Abraham calls the place of the event "Jehovah Jireh", meaning "In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen." If we take this as a prophetic event of Jesus' death, then Jesus' died on the high ground of Jerusalem. Gordon's Calvary is the highest point of Jerusalem, 777 meters above sea level.(Missler: Map from Israel tour book) Today, at Gordon's Calvary, caves in the rock are situated which give the site the appearance of a skull.

Jesus was then crucified. Crucifixion was a practice that originated with the Persians and was later passed on to the Carthaginians and the Phoenicians. The Romans perfected it as a method of execution which caused maximal pain and suffering over a period of time. Those crucified included slaves, provincials and the lowest types of criminals. Roman citizens, except perhaps for soldiers who deserted, were not subjected to this treatment. (McDowell)

The crucifixion site "was purposely chosen to be outside the city walls because the Law forbade such within the city walls...for sanitary reasons ... the crucified body was sometimes left to rot on the cross and serve as a disgrace, a convincing warning and deterrent to passers by." (Johnson) Sometimes, the subject was eaten while alive and still on the cross by wild beasts. (Lipsius)


The procedure of crucifixion may be summarized as follows. The patibulum was put on the ground and the victim laid upon it. Nails, about 7 inches long and with a diameter of 1 cm ( roughly 3/8 of an inch) were driven in the wrists .

The points would go into the vicinity of the median nerve, causing shocks of pain to radiate through the arms. It was possible to place the nails between the bones so that no fractures (or broken bones) occurred. Studies have shown that nails were probably driven through the small bones of the wrist, since nails in the palms of the hand would not support the weight of a body. In ancient terminology, the wrist was considered to be part of the hand. (Davis) Standing at the crucifixion sites would be upright posts, called stipes, standing about 7 feet high.(Edwards) In the center of the stipes was a crude seat, called a sedile or sedulum, which served a support for the victim. The patibulum was then lifted on to the stipes. The feet were then nailed to the stipes. To allow for this, the knees had to be bent and rotated laterally, being left in a very uncomfortable position. The titulus was hung above the victim's head.

There were several different types of crosses used during crucifixion. In Jesus' time, it was most likely that the cross used was a T shaped (or tau cross,), not the popular Latin, or t shaped cross which is accepted today.(Lumpkin)

PHYSICAL SUFFERING ON THE CROSS

Psalm 22:14-15: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death."
Having suffered from the beatings and flogging, Jesus suffered from severe hypovolemia from the loss of blood. The verses above describe His dehydrated state and loss of His strength.


When the cross was erected upright, there was tremendous strain put on the wrists, arms and shoulders, resulting in a dislocation of the shoulder and elbow joints.(Metherall) The arms, being held up and outward, held the rib cage in a fixed end inspiratory position which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath. The victim would only be able to take very shallow breaths.(This may explain why Jesus made very short statements while on the cross). As time passed, the muscles, from the loss of blood, last of oxygen and the fixed position of the body, would undergo severe cramps and spasmodic contractions

ABANDONED BY GOD -- SPIRITUAL DEATH

Matthew 27:46: "About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'--which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

With the sin of the world upon Him, Jesus suffered spiritual death (separation from the Father ). Isaiah 59:2 says that sins cause a separation from God, and that He hides His face from you so that He does not hear. The Father must turn away from His Beloved Son on the cross. For the first time, Jesus does not address God as His Father.(Courson)

DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION : SLOW SUFFOCATION

Shallowness of breathing causes small areas of lung collapse.
Decreased oxygen and increased carbon dioxide causes acidic conditions in the tissues.
Fluid builds up in the lungs. Makes situation in step 2 worse.
Heart is stressed and eventually fails.
The slow process of suffering and resulting death during a crucifixion may be summarized as follows:

"...it appears likely that the mechanism of death in crucifixion was suffocation. The chain of events which ultimately led to suffocation are as follows: With the weight of the body being supported by the sedulum, the arms were pulled upward. This caused the intercostal and pectoral muscles to be stretched. Furthermore, movement of these muscles was opposed by the weight of the body. With the muscles of respiration thus stretched, the respiratory bellows became relatively fixed. As dyspnea developed and pain in the wrists and arms increased, the victim was forced to raise the body off the sedulum, thereby transferring the weight of the body to the feet. Respirations became easier, but with the weight of the body being exerted on the feet, pain in the feet and legs mounted. When the pain became unbearable, the victim again slumped down on the sedulum with the weight of the body pulling on the wrists and again stretching the intercostal muscles. Thus, the victim alternated between lifting his body off the sedulum in order to breathe and slumping down on the sedulum to relieve pain in the feet. Eventually , he became exhausted or lapsed into unconsciousness so that he could no longer lift his body off the sedulum. In this position, with the respiratory muscles essentially paralyzed, the victim suffocated and died. (DePasquale and Burch)

Due to the shallow breathing, the victim's lungs begin to collapse in small areas. causing hypoxia and hypercarbia. A respiratory acidosis, with lack of compensation by the kidneys due to the loss of blood from the numerous beatings, resulted in an increased strain on the heart, which beats faster to compensate. Fluid builds up in the lungs. . Under the stress of hypoxia and acidosis the heart eventually fails. There are several different theories on the actual cause of death. One theory states that there was a filling of the pericardium with fluid, which put a fatal strain on the ability of the heart to pump blood (Lumpkin). Another theory states that Jesus died of cardiac rupture." (Bergsma) The actual cause of Jesus' death, however, "may have been multifactorial and related primarily to hypovolemic shock, exhaustion asphyxia and perhaps acute heart failure."(Edwards) A fatal cardiac arrhythmia may have caused the final terminal event. (Johnson, Edwards)

A LAST DRINK OF WINE VINEGAR

John 19:29-30 "A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips." When he had received the drink, Jesus said, `It is finished'. "With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."

Having suffered severe blood losses from His numerous beatings and thus in a dehydrated state, Jesus, in one of His final statements, said "I thirst." He was offered 2 drinks on the cross. The first, which He refused, was a drugged wine (mixed with myrrh). He chose to face death without a clouded mind. Edersheim writes:

"It was a merciful Jewish practice to give to those led to execution a draught of strong wine mixed with myrrh so as to deaden consciousness" (Mass Sem 2.9; Bemid. R. 10). This charitable office was performed at the cost of, if not by, an association of women in Jerusalem (Sanh. 43a). The draught was offered to Jesus when He reached Golgotha. But having tasted it....He would not drink it. ....He would meet Death, even in his sternest and fiercest mood, and conquer by submitting to the full....(p.880).

The second drink, which He accepts moments before His death, is described as a wine vinegar. Two points are important to note. The drink was given on the "stalk of a hyssop plant". Remember that these events occurred at the Feast of the Passover. During this feast, (Exod 12:22) hyssop was used to apply the blood of the Passover lamb to the wooden doorposts of the Jews. It is interesting the end of this hyssop stalk pointed to the blood of the Perfect Lamb which was applied to the wooden cross for the salvation of all mankind. (Barclay) In addition, the wine vinegar is a product of fermentation, which is made from grape juice and yeast. The word literally means "that which is soured" and is related to the Hebrew term for "that which is leavened". (Holmans) Yeast or leaven, is a Biblical symbol of sin. When Jesus took this drink, (i.e. a drink which was "leavened") it is thus symbolic of His taking the sins of the world into His body.

CELEBRATION OF THE OPPOSITION
SPIRITUAL WARFARE


Psalm 22:12-13: "Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me."

While He was on the cross, darkness covered the land (noon to three p.m.). Jesus, in Luke 22:53, associates those who arrested Him with the power of darkness. Where were the evil forces while Jesus was on the cross? The verses above from Psalm 22 seem out of place when first read. There seems to be no mention of "bulls" and "lions" around the cross. The verses, however, have a deeper meaning.(Courson) Bashan was an area to the east of the Jordan River which was famous for its fertility. Cattle were raised there which grew to enormous sizes. The people there worshipped demon spirits (associated with Baal) within the cattle. In 1 Pet 5:8, Satan is described as "a roaring lion...seeking those who he may devour" These verses are thus suggestive of the spiritual activity of Satan and his demons, celebrating as Jesus was suffering on the cross.

JESUS LAID DOWN HIS LIFE

John 10:17-18 "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

>Luke 23:46 "Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit'." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

The average time of suffering before death by crucifixion is stated to be about 2-4 days(Tenney), although there are reported cases where the victims lived for 9 days.(Lipsius) The actual causes of death by crucifixion were multifactorial, one of the most significant would have been the severity of the scourging. (Edwards) Jesus died a quick physical death (Pilate was surprised that He had died so soon.(Mark 15:44)). While many of the physical signs preceding death were present, one possibility is that Jesus did not die by physical factors which ended His ability to live, but that He gave up His life of His own accord. His last statement, "Into your hands I commit my Spirit" seems to show that Jesus' death occurred by giving Himself up. In John 10, He states that only He has the power to lay down His life. He proved His power over death by His resurrection. Truly, God is the one who has power over life and death

DEATH BY CRUCIFIXION:

HASTENED by the breaking of the legs, so that the victim could not push up to take a good breath.

>John 19:32-33: The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

CONFIRMED by a spear thrust into the right side of the heart.



John 19:34: Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. Death in crucifixion was hastened by the breaking of the legs of the victim. This procedure, called crurifracture, prevented the ability of the victim to take in a good breath. Death would quickly occur from suffocation. In Jesus' case, He died quickly and did not have His legs broken. Jesus fulfills one of the prophetic requirements of the Passover Lamb, that not a bone shall be broken.(Exodus 12:46, John 19:36)

To confirm that a victim was dead, the Romans inflicted a spear wound through the right side of the heart. When pierced, a sudden flow of blood and water came Jesus' body . The medical significance of the blood and water has been a matter of debate. One theory states that Jesus died of a massive myocardial infarction, in which the heart ruptured (Bergsma) which may have resulted from His falling while carrying the cross. (Ball) Another theory states that Jesus' heart was surrounded by fluid in the pericardium, which constricted the heart and caused death.(Davis) The physical stresses of crucifixion may have produced a fatal cardiac arrhythmia. (Johnson)

The stated order of "blood and water" may not necessarily indicate the order of appearance, but rather the relative prominence of each fluid. In this case, a spear through the right side of the heart would allow the pleural fluid (fluid built up in the lungs) to escape first, followed by a flow of blood from the wall of the right ventricle.(Edwards) The important fact is that the medical evidence supports that Jesus did die a physical death.

The story, of course, does not end here. The greatest event that separates Jesus from all others is the fact that He rose again and lives today. He intercedes for those who follow Him at the right hand of the Father.(Heb 7:25)

APPEARANCE IN HEAVEN

Revelation 5:6: Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.

In eternity, Jesus will bear the marks of His crucifixion. Rev 5:6 suggests that He appears in heaven with the marks as a Lamb "looking as if it had been slain". We know that when He appeared to Thomas that He bore the scars of the nails and the spear in His side.(John 20:26-28) It is also worth considering reasons as to why He was not immediately recognized after His resurrection. In John 21:12, it is stated that the disciples did "not dare to ask Him His identity, because they knew that it was the Lord." It is possible that His resurrection body still has the marks of His beatings. "The body of His glorification will be the body of His humiliation." (Missler)

Are we ready to meet Him? What have we done with what He has given to us?. Today, He encourages us to consider the cost of the cross and to apply it to our own lives.

FOLLOWING JESUS CHRIST

Luke 9:23: Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

When He was on earth, Jesus stated that , "If any man would come after me, let him take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23) As we have seen, in Jesus' time it meant going to your death, giving up and separating yourself from all that you had.......your rights, your friends, your body and blood and even your "god", to follow Him.

We are challenged by the example of Simon of Cyrene. Scripture mentions Him as being the father of Alexander and Rufus.(Mark 15:21) Rufus ("a choice man in the Lord") and Simon's wife were both addressed by Paul in his letter to the Roman church. (Romans 16:13) Here was a man, who indeed carried the cross...and made an impact for Christ in eternity. What commitment are you willing to make to Him now?

The Bible, God's Word (II Timothy 3:16-17), relates how God once had a personal relationship with man. God would talk and relate to man, just as you might relate to your best friend. God created man to give him a meaningful and purposeful life.

Man chose to go his own way by disobeying God. (This applies to all men as in Romans 3:23). This disobedience, called sin, caused a break in the relationship between man and God. If a man casually seeks a relationship with God by his own efforts (religion), he will find nothing, because sin has broken the communication. (Isaiah 59:2)

Christianity is the story of God sacrificing His Son to restore a relationship that was broken. As stated in the above text, Jesus gave up His life to pay for the sins of mankind and taking the punishment for the sin upon Himself. Because He gave His life on the cross, any one who believes in Him will have a restoration of a personal relationship with God. Jesus Himself claimed to be the only way to God (John 14:6) and only by the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ can man have a meaningful and purposeful life.(John 10:10)

God desires that all men come to know Him in a personal way. If you have never received Jesus' gift of Himself for your sins , or have any doubts to how you can have a meaningful and purposeful life by the kinowledge of God through Jesus Christ, you can start by praying a simple prayer, such as:

Dear Lord Jesus. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. I confess that I am a sinner before God. I acknowledge that by your death and sacrifice that you have paid the penalty of my sins for me. Please come into my heart and become the Lord of my life.As you gave your life, I give my life to you. I will take up my cross and follow you, not as I will, but to follow Your perfect will for my life. In Jesus Name, Amen.

References:

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Barclay, William. "The Gospel of John Volume 2" Westminister Press, Philadelphia, Pa.,. 1975.

Bergsma, Stuart. "Did Jesus Die of a Broken Heart?". The Calvin Forum, 14:165, 1948.

Bible, Amplified version. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1964.

Bucklin, R.. "The Legal and Medical Aspects of the Trial and Death of Christ". Med Sci Law. 10:14-26, 1970.

Courson, Jon. "Why Psalms 22?" (tape) Firefighters for Christ, Westminister California.

Davis, C.T. "The Crucifixion of Jesus :The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View". Ariz Med 22:183-187, 1965.

DePasquale, N. P. and Burch, G.E. "Death by Crucifixion", Am Heart J 66(3):. 434-435, 1963.

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Johnson, C.."Medicaland Cardiological Aspects of the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus, the Christ", Bol Asoc Med P Rico 70 (3) :97-102, 1978.

Kollek, T. and Dowley, T. , "Next Year in Jerusalem", Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon, 1995.

Lipsius, Justus. "De Cruce. Libri tres, ad sacram profanamque historiam utiles. (3rd part Tom III. Opera Omnia. Antwerp, 1614)

Lumpkin,R.."The Physical Suffering of Christ", J Med Assoc Ala 47: 8-10, 1978.

Magi, G. "Israel". Casa Editrice Bonechi, Florence, Italy, 1992.

McDowell, J. "The Resurrection Factor". Campus Crusade for Christ, Nashville, Tenn., 1981.

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Missler, C. "Isaiah 53" (Tape) Firefighters for Christ, Westminister, Ca.

Missler, C. "Israel Tour Book" 1995 Edition.

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