Jesus left us a shocking view of suffering and death upon the image of His mutilated body, which lies imprinted on the winding sheet that wrapped it after it was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb. Since no traces of decay are detectable on the Shroud forensic experts conclude that the body remained in the burial cloth for about thirty-six hours.
The Shroud of Turin is a telling witness of the inconceivable sufferings borne Jesus during His Passion and Death on the cross. It tells us how the true God who became true man suffered in order to save us – to free us from bondage to sin and death. All men are responsible for the suffering and death of the Savior. Every sin man has ever committed and will commit inflicts yet another wound on the body of Jesus and brings about His death on the cross. The magnitude of suffering born by the Son of God becomes the source of our salvation. When we offer our own suffering up to Jesus, His Passion becomes the way of our salvation, a fountain of grace. Rather than destroy us, it sanctifies us and works for the salvation of others. The image of the tormented Jesus on the Shroud reveals the extent of God’s love for every human being. Truly, He loved us “to the end” (John 13:1).
The Shroud reveals to our eyes the body of Jesus in a state of rigor mortis. His bearded chin reposes on His breast so that we do not see His neck. Having undergone the appalling torments of scourging, the imposition of a crown of thorns, and crucifixion, His body bears the marks of almost 600 wounds and lesions. Jesus begs us to probe the depths of His love by contemplating His Passion: “meditate frequently on the suffering I have undergone for your sake (…) You please me most when you meditate on my Sorrowful Passion.” (Diary, 1512)
The face of Jesus
The face of the Crucified Man of the Shroud is striking in its serene beauty and depth of Divine mystery – this despite the abrasions to the eyelids and eyebrows, the swelling over the right zygoma, the broken septum inflicted by a rod, and the blood-clotted hair. The brow reveals a large clot shaped like the number 3. The mustache and beard are caked with blood, and there are scalp lesions from hair being torn out by the roots. As we read in the Gospels: “And they struck his head with a reed, and spat upon him and they knelt down in homage to him” (Mark 15:19); and “they struck him with their hands” (John 19:3). This is how blasphemers were treated in Jesus’ time, for it was for blasphemy that Jesus was condemned to death – for considering Himself God. Yet despite all these physical and spiritual sufferings, Jesus radiates a Divine sense of peace, thus attesting to the fact that He was God, and that He bore such monumental suffering with the knowledge of the final victory. No longer would suffering and death be bereft of meaning.