He saw you. Jesus saw you. I can’t imagine the mental torture Jesus went through before his death. We know his sweat was like drops of blood. He was so despondent God sent an angel to be with him in his final moments. His human side began to tremble and quake knowing his death was going to be the most painful one known to man.
By Donna Caito
I often think about the humanity of Jesus Christ and the struggle he suffered in his human nature. The way he must have feared the pain and death he would endure on the cross. The horrendous brutality of it all. Was there a moment when he wanted to cry out, “This hurts too much and I want down! Send a legion of angels and decimate them! Father, they’re hurting me!”
But then he closed his eyes and saw…you. And me. As he died on the cross, he thought, “I see you. I see you and I’m doing all this for you.”
I tend to ask, “Am I worth it?”
Am I worth going through flogging? Nails through wrists and feet? Dislocated shoulders and elbows? Suffocation? Cardiac arrest?
I can look at those I love beyond measure and think, “Absolutely.” But me? The person I know I am. All the sins I’ve marked my soul with. My anger, impatience, sarcasm, pettiness, judgmental attitude, pride, lust, envy, and superiority complex. Am I worth it?
Jesus says, “Absolutely.”
But, what about the guy who cut us off in traffic? A woman who screams at our children, who works at a fast-food restaurant? Our boss who denied our raise? An annoying, surly teenager who keeps kicking the back of our seat on an airplane? Atheists who call God a “Spaghetti Monster” and make fun of us for believing in the God they can’t see or hear? Christian pastors who call Catholicism a “demonic religion” and us “pagan worshippers”? The people who constantly recite the pedophilic priest and other abuses in our Church to win religious arguments and suggest we’re complicit?
I get angry and I want to shout at the top of my lungs, “Are they worth it?”
Jesus, bloody and broken, says, “Absolutely.”
Christians like to skim over the punishment Jesus endured because our minds don’t want to think about what we did to him. We like the Salvation but don’t want to think about the cost.
Flogging was with whips that had metal spikes at the end. Jesus was completely naked as the soldiers lashed him. Skin ripped from his back and upper legs. Muscles tore and exposed the bone. Blood poured from his body.
The massive loss of body fluid meant Jesus’s body is dehydrated. He needs liquid to create blood. The robe they put over his shoulders helped the blood clot. When they ripped it off, those wounds reopened and bled again.
The crown of thorns dug into his skull and pierced the bone. Blood pours from the scalp. The thorns impale the nerve endings in his head and agonizing pain shoots down his back and legs. His heart beats rapidly to pump blood that isn’t there. Jesus’s body works overtime to create it.
He went into shock.
The sign above the cross announced to viewers the criminal’s crimes. At the top of his cross, the Romans nail a sign that says, “King of the Jews.” That’s it. That was his crime. He is King and he loves his people.
Jesus is thrown to the ground. The movement opens his wounds that had just begun to heal. Dirt and other debris enter his body creating an environment ripe for infection.
The nails used were almost a foot long. Soldiers pound them into Jesus’s wrists. The nerves in his wrist are severed, causing agony up and down his arms. Nails are pounded into his feet. His legs are at an angle. The nerves of the feet are damaged and severed. Pain bombards up from his legs to his waist.
The soldiers move the cross into a standing position. The weight of Jesus’s body is now on his wrists, but gravity pulls his body down. His joints in his elbows and shoulders dislocate. His arms are extended by six inches as the bones and cartilage separate and fragment.
To breathe, Jesus must exhale while pushing against the nails at his feet. Otherwise, his diaphragm will not allow the air to escape his lungs. Soldiers broke the legs of the thieves crucified with him was to speed their deaths. It was awful but merciful.
They didn’t do that for Jesus.
Because Jesus cannot breathe properly, fluid begins to fill his lungs and the area around his heart. He slowly begins to suffocate. The lack of oxygen to the heart causes cardiac arrest. Jesus is both suffocating and having a heart attack at the same time.
Crucifixion was a long, slow, hideous punishment. It began late at night with flogging and didn’t stop until three o’clock that afternoon.
Rarely do I recite any verse of the Bible as much as the words of Saint Dismas, otherwise known as the Penitent Thief.
Not much is known about Saint Dismas. He was a criminal condemned to die. We know he was a thief, but we don’t know what crimes were listed on his own cross. Not that they matter. Anyone crucified was considered the worst of the worst.
Saint Dismas was probably imprisoned with others who were just as bad. I can imagine him ticking down the days knowing what punishment awaited him for his crimes. He paced his own cellblock knowing his death was going to be a painful one. I wonder if there was a moment when he realized his crimes weren’t worth the punishment. Just like when we are about to enter the Confessional Booth and realize our own crimes weren’t worth it.
Even still, he recognized the innocent man dying with them. He wasn’t simply speaking to the other criminal. Saint Dismas was also speaking to us when he said, “Have you no fear of God? For you are subject to the same condemnation. And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crime, but this man has done nothing criminal” (Luke 23:41).
He looks at Jesus as he’s suffering from his own torture, as breathing becomes increasingly difficult, his heart has begun to pound for blood not there, and begs, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
Jesus, who is dying with every breath, uses his precious air to forgive the sinner, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
I think about my own life and the people I know.
I’m blessed beyond measure to have people who I love surrounding me. I have two daughters. Parents. Family. Friends. People who only want the best for me. They’re easy to love and easily love me. I look at them and say definitively, “They are totally worth it.”
But there are those who are harder to love. People who I want to roll my eyes when they walk into the room. There are those who hurt me or the people I love in many ways. Anger bubbles up inside when I see them. I want to sit in my corner, stare at them angrily, and stew in my righteous indignation.
When I sit in my anger, my disdain, my condemnation of those I deem unworthy, I hear Saint Dismas say to me, “Have you no fear of God? For you are subject to the same condemnation.”
I see Jesus beaten beyond recognition, hanging on the cross with arms extended, looking at me and saying, “I see them, too.”
I look at those people harder. I see broken, bloody criminals on a cross. The face of Jesus in his own agony. The face of the God-man looking at me and showing me His wounds and telling me they were absolutely worth it. What’s not worth it is my anger. Mercy, however, is.
I’m allowed to feel hurt and pain and anger. We all are. However, when we want to condemn the person doing the hurting, we’re no better than Roman soldiers nailing Jesus to a cross. The merciful show mercy no matter the cost to themselves.
It is in those times, I whisper, “Remember me.”
Donna Caito has a B.S. in Management and a M.A. in Theology. She’s a Catholic revert who didn’t want to be a Catholic but couldn’t come up with a good argument otherwise. She lives in the middle of nowhere with her children, her black cat named Midnight, and her white dog named Jack Frost. In her spare time, she enjoys writing about her unique place in the Catholic Church as a single mother and giving good reviews on Google.