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Did Christ die of a broken heart?

Jesus was crucified. But how did He die?
Was it of a broken heart?
Or because he shed his own blood when speared
by one of the Roman soldiers?


WHY WAS Jesus Christ already dead when the soldiers came to break His legs? What killed Him so soon? Was Jesus weaker than other men?

Died of a Broken Heart?

It is commonly taught today that Jesus died of a broken heart. This idea was introduced by a Dr. Stroud about the year 1847, in the book On the Physiological Cause of the Death of Christ.

Stroud claimed that Christ died of "laceration or rupture of the heart." This idea has since been perpetuated by many Protestants today. You will find this idea explained in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, on page 489 under the article "Blood and Water."

But is this idea true? Did Christ shed His blood only after He died?

This encyclopedia continues by saying: "It is well attested that usually the suffering on the cross was very prolonged. It often lasted two or three days, when death would supervene [that is, occur] from exhaustion. There were no physical reasons why Christ should not have lived very much longer on the cross than He did." The question is: Why did Christ die so soon?

We know from John's account that the two thieves crucified with Jesus died sooner than usual because their legs were broken (John 19:32). But Jesus was already dead when the soldiers came. What killed Him?

Dr. Stroud, in his book, tried to explain that the death of Christ resulted because His heart ruptured. He reasoned that the blood passed from the heart into the pericardium or caul of the heart where it collected into red clot (blood) and into the limpid serum (which he calls "water"). Therefore, after Jesus was dead, says this doctor, a spear was thrust into His side and out flowed a little blood and water which had collected around His heart! So, it is reasoned, Jesus died of a broken heart!


Is This What the Bible Says?

Does the Bible teach us that Jesus died of a broken heart?

Why was Jesus not able to suffer longer than He did? Was He a weakling? If Jesus died of a broken heart, because He was weak and was suffering the penalty of sin, then He died for His own sins!

But the fact remains — Jesus was strong! He obeyed God's laws — the physical laws as well as God's spiritual laws. If Jesus died because He was weak and had a broken heart, then He was merely paying the penalty of His own weakness !

Now turn to John 19:31-33: "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that sabbath day [Thursday] was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs."

Thus they broke the legs of the two thieves in order that they might die sooner. But in this case, they did not break Christ's legs because He was already dead.

Mark 15:42-45 brings us a few more details: "And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the [a] Sabbath [there is no definite article in the Greek text], Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate marveled if he were already dead."

Notice. Pilate marveled that Christ was already dead! Then he himself called the centurion. He could not believe it when Joseph of Arimathaea came in and told him Jesus was dead. So Pilate "asked him [the centurion] whether he [Jesus] had been any while dead."

"And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph."

Even Pilate himself was struck by the fact of Jesus' death. What was it that caused the death of Jesus Christ so soon?


Christ Is Our Passover

Let's read a little further. In I Cor. 5:7, the last half of the verse, we read: "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us."

Unless Christ was sacrificed — actually shed His own blood — you have no Savior! Unless the original Passover lamb had been sacrificed or slain, had its own blood shed, the Israelites in Egypt could never have been delivered out of Egypt.

Now read Exodus 12:46, "In one house shall it [the Passover] be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof."

And, if you will notice John's account, chapter 19, verse 36, "these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken." Notice! Jesus was already dead, and the soldiers who would have otherwise broken His bones did not, that it might be fulfilled — which John quoted from Exodus 12:46 — "A bone of him shall not be broken."

Unlike Mosaic sacrifices which had their bones broken, and the body of the animal separated and cut up and placed on the altar, the Passover always remained whole until eaten, because it was to foreshadow the fact that Christ would not have any bones of His body broken.

This is one of the major proofs that Christ is our Passover.

Notice further, Exodus 12:6. Israel was to kill the Passover lamb. Now how did they kill the lamb? By letting the lamb die of a broken heart?

Why no!

They shed its blood!

As Christ is our Passover — and as the lamb was a type, and had its own blood shed — so Christ should also shed His blood to pay for our sins.


Why Shed the Blood?

We read in Hebrews 9:22 that "without" the "shedding of blood" there "is no remission" of sins. It does not say, "without a broken heart, there is no remission of sins" !

God requires of you that you have a contrite spirit and "a broken heart." That is, you must repent and utterly give up your old way of life. But what pays the penalty of your sin is not your contrite spirit or your broken heart. What God requires of you doesn't pay the penalty of your sins. What pays the penalty of your sins is the Passover — Christ — who shed His blood, because without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. But if Jesus died of a broken heart, then He didn't die for your sins.

Let's notice another evidence. Israel was to eat the Passover. According to Leviticus 7:24 and 22:8, and also Deuteronomy 14:21, any animal that dies of itself, we are forbidden to eat. Israel could sell it to the unconverted Gentiles, if they wanted to, but any clean animal that died of itself, we are forbidden to eat.

If Christ died of a broken heart, then that is how the Passover lamb should have died. But if the Passover lamb would have died of itself, it could not have been eaten, could it?

So there is another proof that the Passover lamb had to have its blood shed! It could not have died of itself, because if it died of itself, then it wasn't to be eaten. In other words, a Savior that died of Himself was not fit to be our Passover! That's exactly what the Scriptures teach!


How Christ Really Died!

Let's read further. What does Isaiah 53:7-8 teach us? Here is the key verse in the Old Testament that tells us how Christ would die! "He," that is, Christ, "was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: He is brought

as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth."

Jesus Christ was brought as a lamb to the slaughter. When a lamb is slaughtered, its blood is shed, isn't it? It doesn't die of itself. So Christ, then, is pictured as a lamb which had its blood shed.

Now turn to Acts 8:32. Philip had joined himself to the Ethiopian eunuch and the eunuch had been reading from Isaiah 53. "The place of the scripture which her read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth."

Now, notice further, verse 34, "And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?" Verse 35, "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus." This prophecy is referring to Jesus. The New Testament tells us so!

And the question is, what man was prefigured, was foreshadowed by a lamb going to the slaughter? Jesus Christ, who was our Passover.

Now let us read Isaiah 53:8. "He was taken from prison and from judgment . . . he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people WAS HE STRICKEN."

Notice that in the margin of most Bibles, instead of the last three words, "was he stricken," you will find the words, "the stroke was upon him" (Hebrew nega lamo). Jesus didn't die of a broken heart, but "for the transgression of my people the stroke was upon him." That is, the mortal wound of a spear. In other words, a stroke of a spear brought about His death.

Notice verse 12, "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he has poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors."

Did you notice that Christ poured out His soul UNTO DEATH? It doesn't say that Christ was already dead, and then He poured out His soul. It said He poured out His soul unto death. The pouring out of His soul led to His death. Death was the consequence of pouring out His soul. Isn't that clear from this verse?

What was His soul?


Life in the Blood

This Hebrew word for "soul" — nephesh — comes from the same Hebrew word translated "life" in a number of places in the Old Testament. The life (soul, nephesh) of the flesh is in the blood (Lev. 17:11). Jesus poured out His life.

And where is the soul or life? It is in the blood! So Jesus, then, poured out His blood unto death. In other words, the shedding of blood brought about His death — so says the scripture here! Jesus did not die of a broken heart, and then after He was dead, a soldier pricked His side, and out dribbled a little water and blood — just to make sure that He was dead. The Scripture plainly says "the stroke" of a weapon brought about His death as payment of our sins. "He poured out his soul unto death."

These scriptures mean what they say. They tell us how Christ died!

Now notice another scripture, John 10:11. "I am the good shepherd," said Jesus, "the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." His life was in His blood, wasn't it? That is where the life of man is. It does not reside in an immortal soul. The life of man is in his blood. So, if Christ is the good Shepherd, which He is, then He must have given His life, or His blood, for the sheep. In other words, He was willing to lose His life, to lose His blood, in order to redeem, or to buy back, human beings whom the Scripture calls "His sheep."


Christ Paid the Penalty for Murders

Christ died for the sins of the world.

The New Testament tells us that if you hate your brother, you are a murderer. We read in the New Testament that Paul "breathed out threatenings and slaughter" (Acts 9:1). Paul wanted to kill Christians. Paul was responsible for murder. But Christ died for Paul. Christ died to pay the penalty of the sin of murder.

Now notice what kind of a death expiates the sin of murder. Turn to Genesis 9:6. Here is what we read: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed."

It does not read: "Whoso shall shed man's blood shall die of a broken heart." The only way to expiate the sin of murder is through the shedding of blood.

How did Christ pay the penalty of those who have murdered and shed the blood of Christians? Why, He died by taking on Himself the same penalty here that would otherwise have passed on the murderer. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, BY MAN SHALL HIS BLOOD BE SHED." As Christ paid the penalty of murder instead of the murderers — instead of Paul for example — then Christ had to shed His blood to pay the penalty for that sin! It seems plain, then, that Christ died because blood poured from His body.