Thursday, July 27, 2017

Offering a Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit to Jesus Christ

I am currently attending Education Week at BYU-Idaho. Even if I hadn't signed up for all of Education Week, the opening lecture from Gerald Lund was enough to make this experience worth it.

The entirety of the talk was based around the approach that we hardly consider when speaking about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Typically, when we discuss or think about the Atonement we consider two perspectives:

The Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Son of God OR The Atonement of Jesus Christ, as it applies to humanity (to me).

The approach Brother Lund took was The Atonement of Jesus Christ, the mortal man, or the Son of Mary.

There were five aspects we discussed about Jesus Christ, the mortal man and the symbolism embedded with what, as a mortal, He experienced, including:
  • Knowest thou the condescension of God
  • I, God, have suffered thees things for all
  • Abba, Father
  • A broken heart and a contrite spirit
  • Ye must be born again
There were so many beautiful things we discussed, but the one that resonated and stuck out to me the most was this idea of what it meant to Jesus Christ as he experienced a broken heart and what it means to truly be born again. I will only discuss the first one in this particular post.

Broken Heart
The act of crucifying as a form of capitol punishment was developed by the Assyrians, but 'perfected' by the Romans. Where crucifixion was used as a means to an end, the Romans designed it to prolong, instead of hasten death. It was not unusual for a victim to live up to 5-6 days.

I came home and researched the physiology of a crucifixion, and what it would do the human body. I found an article entitled, The Science of the Crucifixion by Cathleen Shrier Ph.D. with Azusa Pacific University.

The article states:

"Normally, to breathe in, the diaphragm (the large muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity) must move down. This enlarges the chest cavity and air automatically moves into the lungs (inhalation). To exhale, the diaphragm rises up, which compresses the air in the lungs and forces the air out (exhalation). As Jesus hangs on the cross, the weight of His body pulls down on the diaphragm and the air moves into His lungs and remains there. Jesus must push up on His nailed feet (causing more pain) to exhale."

"The difficulty surrounding exhalation leads to a slow form of suffocation. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, resulting in a high level of carbonic acid in the blood. The body responds instinctively, triggering the desire to breathe. At the same time, the heart beats faster to circulate available oxygen. The decreased oxygen (due to the difficulty in exhaling) causes damage to the tissues and the capillaries begin leaking watery fluid from the blood into the tissues. This results in a build-up of fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) and lungs (pleural effusion). The collapsing lungs, failing heart, dehydration, and the inability to get sufficient oxygen to the tissues essentially suffocate the victim.5 The decreased oxygen also damages the heart itself (myocardial infarction) which leads to cardiac arrest. In severe cases of cardiac stress, the heart can even burst, a process known as cardiac rupture.6"

While gruesome and completely horrific, these facts are important to note as Brother Lund described the physiological state of Jesus Christ as his mortal body experienced a crucifixion done by the Romans, and as supported by the article above.

In John 19:34 as the Romans went to check to make sure Jesus Christ was really dead, "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water." 

We can gather at this point that Jesus Christ could have died from a heart attack, as alluded to in the article above. As James E. Talmage states in Jesus the Christ, "Great mental stress, poignant emotion either of grief or joy, and intense spiritual struggle are among the recognized causes of heart rupture. The present writer believes that the Lord Jesus died of a broken heart."

John 13:15 says " For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.It makes so much more sense to me why, when we covenant with our Heavenly Father that we too must offer up a broken heart."

And as we are commanded to do what He has done, He asks us to offer Him a broken heart and contrite spirit that we may live again (Doctrine and Covenants 59:8).

This idea of a broken heart is tied to the covenants we make at baptism. When I go into 'being born again', I will share how I made some of these connections for the first time. I can say that I now have a more profound attention and respect for the sacrament I am offered every Sunday - which provides an opportunity for me to renew my covenants by taking the figurative blood and body of Jesus Christ with the bread and water.

Painting by Elizabeth Wang
Even in the Darkness of our Sufferings
Jesus is With Us
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ has always been hard for me to hear. I always skipped the details, or left the room if they were discussed because I couldn't bear to hear about the cruelty. Today, I listened with different ears.

And, as I did, one thing became abundantly clear: I know without a doubt that my brother, Jesus Christ loves me beyond what I am capable of understanding. This love that He has for me is unique, personal, and intimate. He has a deep personal love for all of His children, which is also unique, personal and intimate with each of them.

My love for the Savior and what He for me as the a Son of God, and as a mortal man, has exponentially increased since this morning. I left feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

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