Thursday, April 21, 2011

Health Care and Easter

Easter is a time of celebration. Believers around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 2,000 years ago. Churches typically bring out all the stops on this holiest of days for the Christian community, and the reason to worship comes full circle as people recognize the purpose of Christianity. The miraculous took place when His tomb was found empty on the third day after Jesus' crucifixion in Jerusalem. What the world knows as Good Friday was not so good to Christ, and all hope seemed lost at the ninth hour that day on the Jewish clock. However, three days later God raised Him from the dead. Now, two millenia later, the world's Believers still worship the risen King.

About crucifixion: Crucifixion was invented by the Persians between 300-400 b.c. It was "perfected" by the Romans in the first century b.c. It is arguably the most painful death ever invented by man and is where we get our term "excruciating." It was reserved primarily for the most vicious of criminals. The most common device used for crucifixion was a wooden cross, which consisted of an upright pole permanently fixed in the ground with a removable crossbar, usually weighing between 75-100 lbs. Victims of crucifixion were typically stripped naked and their clothing divided by the Roman guards, according to KHouse.org. As a gesture of "Roman kindness" the prisoner was offered a mixture of vinegar (gall) and wine as a mild anesthetic. This anesthetic was refused by Jesus.

The victim was then placed on his back, arms stretched out and nailed to the cross bar. The nails, which were generally about 7-9 inches long, were placed between the bones of the forearm (the radius and ulna) and the small bones of the hands (the carpal bones).  The placement of the nail at this point had several effects. First it ensured that the victim would indeed hang there until dead. Secondly, a nail placed at this point would sever the largest nerve in the hand called the median nerve. The severing of this nerve is a medical catastrophe. In addition to severe burning pain the destruction of this nerve causes permanent paralysis of the hand. Furthermore, by nailing the victim at this point in the wrist, there would be minimal bleeding and there would be no bones broken! The positioning of the feet is probably the most critical part of the mechanics of crucifixion. First the knees were flexed about 45 degrees and the feet were flexed (bent downward) an additional 45 degrees until they were parallel the vertical pole. An iron nail about 7-9 inches long was driven through the feet between the 2nd and 3rd metatarsal bones. In this position the nail would sever the dorsal pedal artery of the foot, but the resultant bleeding would be insufficient to cause death.

The resulting position on the cross sets up a horrific sequence of events which results in a slow, painful death. Having been pinned to the cross, the victim now has an impossible position to maintain, according to KHouse. With the knees flexed at about 45 degrees, the victim must bear his weight with the muscles of the thigh. However, this is an almost impossible task-try to stand with your knees flexed at 45 degrees for 5 minutes. As the strength of the legs gives out, the weight of the body must now be borne by the arms and shoulders. The result is that within a few minutes of being placed on the cross, the shoulders will become dislocated. Minutes later the elbows and wrists become dislocated. The result of these dislocations is that the arms are as much as 6-9 inches longer than normal. With the arms dislocated, considerable body weight is transferred to the chest, causing the rib cage to be elevated in a state of perpetual inhalation. Consequently, in order to exhale the victim must push down on his feet to allow the rib muscles to relax. The problem is that the victim cannot push very long because the legs are extremely fatigued. As time goes on, the victim is less and less able to bear weight on the legs, causing further dislocation of the arms and further raising of the chest wall, making breathing more and more difficult.

The result of this process is a series of catastrophic physiological effects. Because the victim cannot maintain adequate ventilation of the lungs, the blood oxygen level begins to diminish and the blood carbon dioxide (CO2) level begins to rise. This rising CO2 level stimulates the heart to beat faster in order to increase the delivery of oxygen and the removal of CO2. However, due to the pinning of the victim and the limitations of oxygen delivery, the victim cannot deliver more oxygen and the rising heart rate only increases oxygen demand. So this process sets up a vicious cycle of increasing oxygen demand-which cannot be met-followed by an ever increasing heart rate. After several hours the heart begins to fail, the lungs collapse and fill up with fluid, which further decreases oxygen delivery to the tissues. The blood loss and hyperventilation combines to cause severe dehydration.

The average time of suffering before death by crucifixion is stated to be about 2-4 days, although there are reported cases where the victims lived for 9 days. The actual causes of death by crucifixion were multifactorial, one of the most significant would have been the severity of the scourging. Jesus died a quick physical death. 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.  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.

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 which may have resulted from His falling while carrying the cross. Another theory states that Jesus' heart was surrounded by fluid in the pericardium, which constricted the heart and caused death. The physical stresses of crucifixion may have produced a fatal cardiac arrhythmia. 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. The important fact is that the medical evidence supports that Jesus did die a physical death, according to Blue Letter Bible.

Jesus' death on the cross is recorded history, and so is His resurrection. Those disciples who were deathly afraid of being captured and killed were running for their lives trying to escape Roman soldiers, the Jewish leaders, and the general population that had turned against their leader. The first Sunday after the crucifixion they were not jumping up and down to say, "Hey, it's Easter." Remember, they were Jewish, and it was Passover. However, after Jesus was raised from the dead, those fearful followers became impassioned leaders who took his message to the known world in spite of torture, hatred, and martyrdom. They finally realized what the message was all about--eternal life. Christianity is the story of God sacrificing His Son to restore a relationship that was broken. Jesus resurrection was a miracle, but it shows the power of God and how much that can change lives even today.

When you get ready to celebrate Easter, keep these things in mind. This holiday is not about fancy new clothes, or visiting with family, or hunting eggs. Nor is it even about going to church. All those things are fine. The real reason you should be celebrating is to realize that the death and resurrection of Jesus was to provide you with a way to live forever. An examination of the evidence for the resurrection goes beyond just exploring the evidence Jesus rose from the dead, but to the reliability of the Bible itself and whether you have evidence the Bible is true. The physical resurrection of Jesus is crucial to the Christian faith; and if you need help to prove it, here is a site that provides evidence to support the claim: http://toptenproofs.com/article_resurrection.php .

After Christ’s resurrection, His disciples and His teachings changed the world. Today, His work continues in this country and in countries around the world. Every day, countless Christians love their neighbors as themselves. And that helps create a better country and a better world. Remember the truth of Christ’s teachings in your private lives and in the public square. Every time you protect the life of the unborn, you remember His truth. Every time the sanctity of marriage is defended, you remember His truth. And every time citizens in the US acknowledge that America is one nation under God, Believers remember His truth.

May you have a blessed Easter...and may you remember to be humbled by His grace and sacrifice for all mankind. How is your spiritual health?

Until next time.

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