Why Jesus Died So Quickly on the Cross

by J Warner Wallace

Of the many non-Christian explanations for the Resurrection, the “Swoon Theory” is amongst the most popular. If Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, His alleged “resurrection” is really nothing more than a remarkable “resuscitation”. Those who doubt Jesus’ death often point to the short amount of time Jesus spent on the cross prior to dying. Victims of crucifixion typically died slowly as a result of their pain, exposure to the environment, and lack of food or water. But Jesus only spent six hours on the cross; his rapid death was unusual given that some historical references to crucifixion describe it as lasting several days. Even the Biblical account describes Jesus early death as an exception. The Apostle John said the two criminals crucified alongside Jesus were still alive six hours after they were crucified so “the soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other” to make sure they would die before the Sabbath (John 19:31-34). Why then, did Jesus die so quickly on the cross? Can we be sure he died at all?

Jesus pre-crucifixion experience was unusual given His identity and claims. As we review the chronology prior to the crucifixion, we begin to understand why Jesus died so quickly on the cross:

They Struck Him in the Head
Remember that Jesus was delivered to the cross through the Jewish rulers who abused Him prior to the crucifixion. This wasn’t the case for every victim of crucifixion. Jesus’ treatment started with physical abuse from the onset. When he refused to answer the high priest in the manner they expected, Jesus was struck by an officer:

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John 18:21-22
“Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.” When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?”

They Beat Him With Their Fists and Slapped Him in the Face
The physical abuse of Jesus continued based on His claims of Deity. Not every prisoner made these kinds of assertions. Jesus’ claims caused His captors to treat him even more harshly, tormenting and mocking Him both verbally and physically:

Mark 14:65
Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.

They Scourged Him
In another unusual turn of events, Pontius Pilate received Jesus from the Jewish rulers and appeared troubled about sentencing Jesus to crucifixion. In fact, Pilate found nothing worthy of crucifixion and attempted to appease the angry Jewish mob by having Jesus scourged badly…

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