The Week That Changed the World: Part 6

It was probably sometime after midnight that Judas and a huge crowd of armed men entered the garden with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus. 

The group that arrived was definitely overkill. It included Judas, a group of leading priests, the captains and members of the temple guard, elders from the Jewish religious system – probably members of the Jewish Sanhedrin (Lk 22:52), a group Matthew and Mark both describe as a “large or great crowd” (Mt 26:47; Mk 14:43) and a detachment of Roman soldiers (Jn 18:3, 12). 

The detachment of Roman soldiers is interesting. It represented a group of at least 200 men and possibly a group numbering as many as 600. The fact that they carried weapons like swords and clubs could be an indication that they expected a full-scale confrontation with Jesus’ followers.  

This was definitely a “show of force” on the part of the religious establishment of that day intended to intimidate and overwhelm. 

The agony Jesus had already experienced in the Garden had so altered his appearance that when the arresting party arrived, Jesus wasn’t easily recognizable. In fact, when the group approached, Jesus asked them, “Who are you looking for?” (John 18:4). Evidently, the blood and sweat of His garden intercession had so altered His appearance that He was already unrecognizable to most of the people in the arresting party. 

They answered, “Jesus, the Nazarene.” His next words were stunning. 

I am he,” Jesus said…  

As Jesus said “I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! 
John 18:5-6 NIV

The phrase, “I AM he” is packed with meaning. Jesus used the expression three times during this exchange. It’s the Greek expression, “Ego eimi.” It’s the same expression He used back in John 8:58 when a group of religious people squared off against Him and sarcastically said, “You’re not even fifty years old. How can you say you’ve seen Abraham.” (Jn 8:57)

Jesus confidently stared straight back at this group and with authority said, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM (John 8:58). 

Jesus: “I AM!”
—Jn 8:58, 18:5-6, Ex 3:14

This is not the first time these words appear. They show up in the Old Testament (Gen 2:4; 4:26), most famously in Exodus 3:14 when they were spoken by God Himself as He revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush. Moses asked God, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them that the God of your ancestors sent me, they may ask, ‘What is this God’s name?’ How should I respond? What should I tell them?” God responded, “I AM WHO I AM.”

That phrase has so many potential meanings. But at its core, what the phrase basically means is that “God is, in all times and at all places, simply who God is. God will always be what He was, and is, and will be. He is self-existent and not dependent on anything or anyone else for His existence. He is the creator and sustainer of everything that exists. And, He is unchanging in His character and not in the process of becoming something different than who He is. He is “I AM WHO I AM.” 

We use the name, Yahweh, which corresponds to four Hebrew consonants, YHWH. That’s the way it appears in the Hebrew. It’s a name for God considered to be so holy and revered that devout Jews won’t even speak the name. It’s referred to as the “Tetragrammaton” — (literally, “four letters”), and also “the unspeakable name of God.” It’s believed that only the High Priest, only once a year, on Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, would speak the name when He entered the Most Holy Place to sprinkle the blood of “the goat of the sin offering” on the Mercy Seat that sat on top of the Ark of the Covenant (Lev 16:15-16). 

This name was considered so holy that when Jewish scribes copied the letters for Yahweh or Jehovah, they would stop transcribing when they came to YHWH and would remove their clothes, take a bath, put on clean cloths and use a new unused pen to write this revered name. 

What’s astonishing is that when Jesus spoke the words — “I AM he” — in the Garden of Gethsemane, the power of His word was so forceful that it literally knocked a group of leading priests, members of the temple police, a mob of people and a detachment of professional Roman soldiers to the ground! They literally couldn’t remain on their feet when Jesus said the same words to them that God had said to Moses. 

This is evidence that Jesus was and is the great “I AM”! In fact, He would later make this statement about Himself to John in the book of Revelation. 

“I AM the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
“who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
—Revelation 1:8 NIV

The writer of Hebrews would describe Jesus like this: 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
—Hebrews 13:8 NLT

And Paul would later write these words about Jesus: 

“…at the NAME of JESUS every knee should bow, 
in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, 
11and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father.”
—Philippians 2:10-11 NLT

When a group of more than 200 professionally trained men involuntarily go prostrate or prone on the ground at just the power of Jesus saying His name, it’s reminding us that the events that were about to go down over the course of the next 12-18 hours, didn’t go down because Jesus was impotent, weak or powerless! They went down because Jesus wanted them to go down! They went down because Jesus was and is omnipotent, all-powerful and in total control. He was and is the Great I AM! 

Jesus: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
—John 10:18 NIV

What happened next must have been one of the most emotionally painful moments Jesus experienced. 

The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: 
“You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.”
49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” 
he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.
50 Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”
Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him.
—Matthew 26:48-50 NLT

A kiss was the customary sign of love, respect, honor, trust and devotion a disciple gave his teacher or rabbi. But that evening, it was a sign to the temple guard and detachment of soldiers that this was the man they needed to arrest. On that night, a kiss became the symbol of ultimate betrayal. 

Friday — The March to the Cross
The Religious Trials (Between 1 am and Daybreak)
(Matthew 26:57-27:1; Mark 14:53-15:1; Luke 22:54-71; John 18:12-27)

The events that happened next occurred at a breakneck pace. In the space of six to twelve hours, Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested by an armed force, abandoned by His closest friends, endured six interrogations or trials and was disowned by Peter. 

Jesus experienced three trials or interrogations at the hands of Jewish religious authorities. 

The First Jewish “Trial”

The first was an interrogation by Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law of the current high priest, Caiaphas (John 18:12b-14, 19-23). Annas was one of the most powerful men in Jerusalem. He had served as the high priest for twenty years, and for all practical purposes still controlled the office of the high priest. 

It was during this initial interrogation that a member of the temple guard hit Jesus for the first of what would be many times, accusing Jesus of being disrespectful (John 18:13-14, 19-24). 

The Second Jewish “Trial”

Frustrated by his inability to come up with something that could serve as grounds for execution, Annas sent Jesus off to his son-in-law, Caiaphas, the current high priest, for his second interrogation. (Matthew 26:57, 59-68; Mark 14:53, 55-65; Luke 22:54a, 63-71; John 18:24). Caiaphas brought the Sanhedrin together at his house in the middle of the night for this trial. 

The Sanhedrin was a council consisting of twenty-four chief priests and forty-six additional elders chosen from among scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. The high priest served as the overseer and a voting member of the group. A total number of seventy-one men were involved.  At least 23 members showed up, the minimum number necessary for a conviction. 

There’s no real concern or desire for justice or fairness in what goes down next. The majority of these leaders just wanted Jesus dead. (Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1a;  Luke 22:66-71)

For most of the trial, Jesus demonstrated strength through silence. He knew that the outcome had already been determined, not by a group of weak, feeble and fearful men gathered in a back room who thought they were in charge. The outcome had already been determined by God. 

Eventually, Caiaphas directly demanded, “I command you by the authority of the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus finally broke His silence and replied, “You’ve said it…”  He then went on to apply Messianic passages from books like Daniel and Psalms to Himself. (Daniel 7:13-14; Psalm 110:1-2)

When Caiaphas heard Jesus say, “You’ve said it,” he tore his robe in apparent horror, shock and outrage over Jesus’ statement. It’s interesting that the guy who was supposedly so committed to keeping the law actually broke the law by tearing his robe. Leviticus 10:6 and 21:10 prohibited the high priest from tearing his robe. But religious people always prefer “looking right” to “being right.” 

Caiaphas tore his robe and screamed, Why do we need any more evidence? We’ve all heard him as good as say it himself.” (Luke 22:71 MSG)

The members of the council who were present all responded, “Death. He just sealed his own death sentence. He deserves to die [because of what He just said]” (Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1a; Luke 22:66-71). 

The moment this group reached a conviction of blasphemy, the humiliation, beatings and torture of Jesus continued (Matthew 26:67-68; Mark 14:65; Luke 22:63-65). 

Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. 
And some slapped him, 68 jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! 
Who hit you that time?”
—Matthew 26:67-68 NLT

The religious authorities knew that Rome had limited their powers of execution, so they would have to wait until daybreak to get approval from Pilate and Rome for execution. However, they did have the power to inflict physical punishment. So, for the next few hours, they unleashed all the pent up rage they had carried against Jesus for the past three years in unbelievable, degrading verbal abuse and relentless physical violence. 

Jesus endured physical torture and verbal abuse that was unimaginable. He was blindfolded and beaten without mercy. He was mocked and verbally humiliated. 

Mockery is verbal violence. The Temple Guard “torture squad” ridiculed every aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry they could think of. Their goal was humiliation, degradation and dishonor. They wanted to strip Jesus of every shred of dignity He carried. 

Amazingly, the physical and verbal torture Jesus endured had been predicted seven-hundred years earlier by the prophet Isaiah.

I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting.
—Isaiah 50:6 NLT

The Third Jewish “Trial”

Just before daybreak, Caiaphas gathered the entire Sanhedrin one more time for the third trial, to confirm the conviction and verdict (Matt 27:1-2; Mk 15:1). The most powerful members of the council had already spoken. This gathering was about appearances, not about fairness. All three of these “trials” or interrogations took place between the hours of 1 and 6 am on Friday. 

Peter Blows It — Big Time!

It was during the Jewish interrogations or trials of Jesus that Peter ended up denying Jesus three times. Somehow, when Peter denied Jesus for the third time, Jesus and Peter made eye contact (Lk 22:61). 

What happened in that moment? What happened in that glance? 

When Peter looked into the eyes of the leader and Lord He had just failed, I don’t think for a moment that Jesus glared at him as if to say, “How could you?” I believe Jesus looked at him with compassion and forgiveness, and that compassion triggered Peter’s memory and caused this rough, tough fisherman to break. Peter quickly ran out of the courtyard and fell completely apart. This moment would be the beginning of His path to forgiveness, redemption and freedom. (Matthew 26:58, 69-75; Mark 14:54, 66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27)

The Regret of Judas

It was also during these early morning hours that Judas got clarity on what he had just done — on the depth of His betrayal. He immediately regretted his actions and admitted, “I’ve sinned. I’ve betrayed an innocent man.”The religious authorities responded, “We could care less. That’s your problem.”

Repulsed by his own actions, Judas threw the silver coins he had been paid to sell Jesus out back into the temple, ran out of the temple, and violently hung himself (Matt 27:3-10). 

The poet, W.B. Yeats once famously wrote: 

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

W.B. Yeats

While Yeats may have not been considering the events that occurred in the three trials of Jesus when he wrote those lines, they are an apt description. The worst of these religious leaders were filled with “passionate intensity” they drove them to unbelievable actions, while the best “lacked [any] conviction” at all. No one spoke in His defense. 

At daybreak the Roman trials began. 

Friday — The March to the Cross
The Roman Trials (Between 6 and 8:45 am)
(Matthew 27:2, 11-26; Mark 15:1-15; Luke 23:1-25; John 18:28-19:1, 4-16)

According to the Old Testament, blasphemy was punishable by death by stoning (Leviticus 24:10-16). However, Rome didn’t allow the Jewish authorities to carry out capital punishment cases themselves. Just a few years prior, Rome had rescinded the rights of Jewish leaders to carry out the death penalty (John 18:31). They allowed the Sanhedrin to rule in religious matters and in some civil cases, but never in a capital case. Every death sentence had to be approved by Rome.

The only person who could order the execution of Jesus was the Roman Governor, Pilate. So at the break of day, around 6 am, Jesus was hurried off to Pilate for his civil trial.

Even though the Jewish authorities had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, no mention is made of blasphemy by the Jewish authorities in His civil or Roman trial. The charge the Sanhedrin leveled to the Roman Governor was changed to sedition, treason and subversion. 

The religious leaders realized that the Romans could care less about their religious beliefs and practices. If a charge was going to stick and a death sentence be passed, they needed to politicize the charges. 

Religion does strange things to people. The group of religious leaders who brought Jesus before the Roman Governor, Pilate had murder on their mind. Incredibly, on the other hand, they didn’t want to exempt themselves from participating in the upcoming religious holiday. So, they refused to enter Pilate’s headquarters for the legal proceedings because that would make them unclean and unable to participate in Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Again, religious people always love looking right over being right! 

The First Roman “Trial” — Jesus Before Pilate

The three Roman trials of Jesus take place within a span of about two hours. First of all, Jesus stood trial before Pilate who wasn’t able to find any fault at all in Him (Matthew 27: 2, 11-14; Mark 15:1-5,  Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38). 

The Second Roman “Trial” — Jesus Before Herod

When Pilate discovered that Jesus was from Galilee, He passed the buck to Herod, hoping that Herod would take Him off his hands and deal with the whole sleazy mess. At first Herod was elated. He had wanted to meet Jesus and was hoping to see Jesus do something spectacular. 

The second “trial” consisted of Herod peppering Jesus with question after question. In a beautiful display of strength, dignity and poise, Jesus refused to play Herod’s games. As the religious leaders stood there shouting their accusations, Herod turned on Jesus, and led his soldiers in mocking and ridiculing Jesus. 

The Third Roman “Trial” — Jesus Back Before Pilate

Finally, tired of the games and refusing to take responsibility, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate for His third and final trial (Matthew 27:15-30; Mark 15:6-19; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:1, 4-16). 

Philip Yancey writes, “The trial sequence has a ‘pass-the-buck’ quality. No one seems willing to accept full responsibility for executing Jesus, yet everyone wants him disposed of.” [1]

The trials were nothing more than a Kangaroo Court where the evidence was rigged, the witnesses bribed and the verdict decided before the case ever began. The verdict would ultimately be death by crucifixion.

One of the questions we often ask is, “Why? Why did the religious authorities have such blood lust when it came to Jesus? Why did Pilate go along with them, even when he knew their charges weren’t legitimate?”

Three Possible Motives

  • The Religious Motive

To the religious elite, Jesus was a “religious fanatic” attracting too big of a following. He was a source of embarrassment to the religious leaders of that era. His influence caused many to begin questioning the teachings and hierarchy of the system they had worked so hard to establish and maintain. 

  • The Economic Motive

On two occasions (Jn 2:11-12; Mt 21:17-23), Jesus had overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. Some feared that Jesus might further upset the commercialization going on. “Money talks,” and it screamed to the religious leaders, “This guy has to go!”  

  • The Political Motive

When Jesus answered Pilate’s question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” by saying, “You’ve said it.” (Matt 27:11-14; Mk 15:2; Lk 23:3-4; Jn 18:33-37), That alone, was grounds for execution. 

Rome punished not only those who incited rebellion against Rome, but the leaders of the people, as well. In some respects, the Jewish leaders and Roman governor were held hostage for the obedience of the people to the Roman state. If this revolutionary named Jesus got out of hand, it could be their backs plastered to a cross or their heads on a platter.

Jesus was considered by the Jewish authorities to be a menace, not only to their economic and religious situation but also to the political welfare of the Jewish State, which was dominated by Rome. It was to the political advantage of both Jewish and Roman leaders that Jesus die. 

Paschal Amnesty

After finding no evidence to proceed with capital punishment, Pilate proposed Jesus’ release. He even appealed to something called paschal amnesty. This was a tradition that allowed the people to make a choice as to which prisoner Pilate would release at Passover. 

The choice Pilate offered came down to two: one, a well-known criminal and murderer named Barabbas; and, the other, Jesus. Prompted by the religious leaders, the crowd demanded the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus.

Pilate continued to insist on Jesus’ innocence. 

For the third time [Pilate] demanded, “Why? What crime has he committed? 
I have found no reason to sentence him to death. So I will have him flogged, 
and then I will release him.”
—Luke 23:22 NLT

Pilate was a consummate politician.  He wanted to set Jesus free.  But the moment he made the decision to do it, someone in the crowd shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.” (John 19:12 NLT)

This was basically a form of blackmail! The religious leaders were reminding Pilate that it could ruin his career if he pardoned Jesus. Pilate’s immediate superior had been executed just months prior on charges of treason and disloyalty.

A footnote in John 19:12 of The Passion Translation indicates that the term “friend of Caesar” was an honorary title given to the ruling wealthy class of Romans who had access to the court of the emperor. Michael Card says, “friend of Caesar” was actually a formal title for the governor.  

Pilate’s position was a political appointment given because he was a member of an elite, wealthy, Roman ruling class. When the religious leaders shouted, “If you let this man go, you’re no friend of Caesar…” they were, in effect, threatening to inform Rome that Pilate was allowing treason to co-exist in Caesar’s empire. One false move, and Pilate’s appointment could be cancelled, his career finished and he could actually be executed. [2]

Michael Card writes, “Whoever shouted this out knew that Pilate was on a slippery political slope. When Pilate heard it, he abandoned his defense of Jesus,” [3] and handed Jesus over to be crucified (Luke 23:24-25). 

Interestingly enough, Pilate was ultimately removed from office in A.D. 37 for excessive cruelty to the Jews. It’s believed that he committed suicide on his final journey to Rome. According to tradition however, his wife, Claudia Porcula (Matthew 27:19), became a believer and later came to be revered as a saint in the Greek Orthodox Church. [4]

Friday — The Physical Torture of Jesus 

Here are the bare facts regarding what Jesus experienced leading up to the cross. 

  • Mockery, Humiliation and Torture by Roman Soldiers (Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:15-20; John 19:1-4)

Then Pilate ordered Jesus to be brutally beaten with a whip of leather straps embedded with metal.  
—John 19:1 TPT

It’s important to remember that Jesus had already been slapped and beaten repeatedly before being brought to Pilate. His face was already swollen. His body had already been bruised. He was undoubtedly already bleeding. 

The crucifixion process began with scourging or flogging in an area known as The Praetorium or the Governor’s Headquarters. Scourging was one of the most feared forms of punishment in the Roman world. 

Several years ago a research paper by a medical doctor, a medical illustrator and Bible scholar appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association titled, On The Physical Death of Jesus Christ. These experts described scourging or flogging as follows: 

“Flogging was a legal preliminary to every Roman execution, and only women and Roman senators or soldiers (except in cases of desertion) were exempt. The usual instrument was a short whip (flagrum or flagellum) with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals… For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of the lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. After the scourging, the soldiers often taunted their victim.” [5]

In Lee Strobel’s important book, The Case for Christ, Dr. Alexander Metherell described the physical torture Jesus endured with these words:

“The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely.

“The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks and the back of the legs…

“…As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh…” [6]

A third century historian named Eusubius described flogging as follows, “The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.” [7]

Flogging or scourging involved extreme violence and brutality.  In fact, according to Dr. Metherell, many of the victims didn’t survive the beating! 

The Jews limited the number of stripes a person could receive to 39. The Romans had no such law! And sometimes, out of contempt and hatred for the Jewish people, or just the utter cruelty of the executioner, they would purposefully ignore the given limitations. They probably did that in the case of Jesus. 

Scourging was designed to inflict as much physical pain and suffering on the victim as possible, just short of death. The JAMA article contains the following illustration of the scourging Jesus experienced. 

[8]

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
—Isaiah 53:5b MSG

After scourging, the whole company of Roman soldiers gathered around Jesus, somewhere between 120-200 soldiers,[9] and they continued to mock, verbally humiliate Jesus and physically abuse and torture Jesus. 

But many were amazed when they saw him. 
    His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human,
    and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. 

—Isaiah 52:14 NLT

Since someone said that He had claimed to be a king, one of the soldiers found a purple robe (John 19:1-2). Matthew calls it a “scarlet robe” (Matt 27:27-28). It was probably an old military coat, the closest article of clothing the soldiers could find to purple, which was a symbol of royalty. The soldiers thought, “A king has to wear a robe.” so they threw the robe over the shoulders of Jesus. 

Someone else thought, “A king has to have a crown.” So they fashioned a thorny vine into a crown and forced this crown of thorns on to Jesus’ head. 

Scholars aren’t certain of the plant that was used to fashion the crown of thorns, but several have speculated that it was probably a plant now known as the Syrian Christ-thorn, a plant with 2 large, sharp, curved thorns at the bottom of each leaf. It’s a common plant in the Middle East, especially near the area surrounding Golgotha.[10] [11]

When the crown of thorns was forced down onto Jesus’ head, it would have caused painful wounds and more severe bleeding. 

God’s Son Carried Our Curse On His Own Head

In the opening chapters of Genesis, one of the penalties that resulted from the Fall was that God cursed the earth with thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18). In the Gospels, God’s Son carried that curse on his own head. 

Through our sin and disobedience, we had brought a curse of thorns into God’s perfect creation. But the Son of God Himself, through His perfection and obedience, wore those thorns like a crown so that He could not only take on our curse, but overcome it! 

The soldiers didn’t stop with the crown of thorns. Someone thought, “A king has to have a scepter,” so they placed a wooden stick or staff in Jesus’ right hand for Him to use as a scepter. The goal of the robe, the crown and the rod was to make a mockery of any notion that Jesus was some kind of a king! 

120-200 soldiers took turns kneeling before Jesus in mock humility. Some of them spat on Him – a symbol of extreme disrespect. Eventually, one of them ripped the staff out of Jesus’ hand and repeatedly struck him on the head and in the face with the rod. Several blows undoubtedly pounded the thorns more deeply into Jesus head producing even more intense pain. 

They slapped Jesus across the face with their own hands. It may have been during this moment that the Scripture was fulfilled which said, “…they ripped out my beard…” (Isaiah 50:6), which was another act of ultimate disrespect in ancient times. Jesus was beaten within an inch of his life. 

Keep in mind that seven-hundred years before all of this happened, the prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described it all in vivid detail. 

I offered my back to those who beat me
    and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.
I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting.

—Isaiah 50:6 NLT

But many were amazed when they saw him. 
    His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human,
    and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. 

—Isaiah 52:14 NLT

He was beaten, he was tortured,
    but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
    and like a sheep being sheared,
    he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
    and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
    beaten bloody for the sins of my people.

Isaiah 53:7-8 MSG

Eventually, the soldiers tore off the robe, probably reopening the wounds, and led Jesus away to be crucified.  It was probably around 8:45 Friday morning when Jesus was led from the Roman Praetorium to the execution site at Golgotha.  

When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.
—Matthew 27:31 NLT

  • The Road To The Cross

Although as many as six hundred men were sent to arrest Jesus, only four soldiers carried out his actual execution. 

It was customary for convicted criminals to carry their own cross to the place of execution. Since the entire cross weighed approximately 200-300 pounds, convicted criminals were only required to carry the crosspiece or patibulum, which weighed between 75 to 125 pounds.    

The crosspiece was strapped to the victim’s shoulders, which distributed the weight to the lower neck and upper spine of Jesus. Already devastated by the sleepless nights, miles of walking, hematidrosis, dehydration, the severe beatings, the violent scourging, and physical torture, Jesus was eventually unable to carry His cross to the execution site.

Under Roman law a soldier had the right to require anyone to carry a burden as far as one mile. One of the soldiers, randomly selected a man from the crowd by the name of Simon of Cyrene and forced him to help Jesus carry the cross (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). 

Not much is known about Simon, except that he came from Cyrene, which implies that he was an African and therefore probably black.  

Tradition indicates that after carrying the cross, Simon became a believer. In fact, Scripture seems to support this because Mark identifies Simon as the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21). Simon’s name actually gets mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Later in Romans 16:13, Paul the Apostle greets a man named Rufus. Some believe that Mark assumed that his readers would be acquainted with Simon’s sons and that one of them may have been a part of the church in Rome. It’s not difficult to imagine that Simon’s experience that day so moved him that he became a devoted follower of Jesus. 

In fact, one unverified legend surrounding Simon of Cyrene has him being interviewed in the aftermath of the crucifixion about carrying Jesus’ cross. When he was asked about the difficulty of the assignment and the weight of the cross, legend has him responding, 

“I didn’t feel the weight of the cross for 
feeling the touch of His hand.”
—Simon of Cyrene

The Execution Site — Golgotha, “the place of the skull”
Latin for “skull” is calvaria, from which comes our word “Calvary.”

Golgotha is Aramaic for “the place of the Skull.” The Latin is “calvaria” from which we get our English word Calvary. It was a small hill outside the walls of ancient Jerusalem that was used as an execution site for only the most wicked and heinous of criminals. It was the “termination zone for the wickedest and the worst.” [12] It was probably called Golgotha not because of its physical shape, but because of the number of skulls that regularly littered the landscape. This was the execution site for Jesus. 

Just before nailing him to the cross, someone attempted to give Jesus some cheap sour wine to drink (Matt 27:33-34; Mark 15:23). It may have been an act of mercy to help dull or numb the pain. Jesus refused to drink it. Upon tasting it, He spat it out. His mind was made up. He didn’t want His senses numbed. He would suffer the full experience of all the pain — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual — that the cross could dish out. He would bear it all, so we wouldn’t have to. 

Crucifixion
(Matthew 27:31-50;  Mark 15:20-37;  Luke 23:26-46;  John 19:16-30)

The Romans didn’t invent crucifixion, but they had perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment. By the time of Jesus, it had become the favorite method of execution throughout the empire. In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus indicates that Titus crucified so many people when He leveled Jerusalem in 70 AD that there was no wood left for crosses and no place left to put one up! [13] Crosses with dead and dying men on them were a common sight around Jerusalem and a constant reminder of who was in charge. Eventually, crucifixion was considered so barbaric, that it was banned by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century, around 351 AD. 

The specific details of Jesus’ crucifixion aren’t completely known. The Gospels don’t give us a detailed account. But here’s what we can put together from what we do know. 

Crucifixion was designed to produce a slow and excruciatingly painful death. In fact, the word “excruciating” comes from the Latin word, “excruciare” and means “to crucify” or “…out of the cross…” It speaks of unbearable pain or extreme agony. The pain experienced on the cross was so intense and severe that a word had to be created to describe the magnitude of it. 

The Jewish historian, Josephus, observed numerous crucifixions and described it as “the most wretched of deaths.” [14] So much so that it was reserved for slaves and non-Romans convicted of the most notorious crimes. It was designed to maximize the victim’s pain and suffering and prolong the process of dying. It was one of the world’s most cruel, degrading, disgraceful, despicable and disgusting forms of torture ever invented. Historian Will Durant wrote, “…even the Romans…pitied the victims.” [15]

Crucifixion was a government sanctioned, even government encouraged opportunity for executioners to carry out on real people their most sadistic, brutal and viciously inventive fantasies… [16]

Jewish people considered crucifixion a sign that a person had been cursed by God. Perhaps this is another reason the religious leaders insisted that Jesus be crucified. They wanted people to think of Jesus in the worst possible of ways. 

“…anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.”
—Deuteronomy 21:23

Interestingly, it wasn’t until the fourth century that the cross became a symbol of faith. In fact, C.S. Lewis once remarked that the cross didn’t become common in art until everyone who had seen the horrors of crucifixion had died off. [17]

There were four pieces that made up a cross. 

  • The Patibulum or the Cross Piece. It was the horizontal cross bar that the victim’s arms were tied or nailed to. Again, it probably weighed somewhere between 75 to 125 pounds. This is the part of the cross that Jesus and Simon carried. 
  • The Simplex or post was the vertical beam of the cross and it probably weighed between 150 to 175 pounds. This was the vertical post that the cross beam was attached to and that Jesus’ feet were eventually nailed to. 
  • The Titulus was the sign that was nailed to the cross announcing the crime the person had committed. During the process of execution, the Titulus was often fastened around the neck of the convicted criminal or carried ahead of him by a solider. Once the cross was secured, it was placed above the head of the victim after he had been nailed to the cross to announce to the world his crime.   
  • The Sedile or Wooden Seat was positioned about midway up the simplex. It was a “seat” that served to lengthen the agony of the crucifixion. 

Here’s an example from the article that appeared in JAMA. 

A screenshot of a cell phone

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According to archeological discoveries, by the time of Jesus’s crucifixion nailing the hands and feet to the cross was ordinary and quite common. 

Jesus was likely stretched out completely naked on the cross as it lay flat on the ground. Experts say that he was probably stretched out about six inches beyond his normal arm span so that both shoulders were dislocated. [19]

Then, five to seven inch long spikes or nails were driven just below the palms of Jesus’ hands, through his wrists and the largest nerve extending from his hand, creating the continuous sensation of pain every moment Jesus hung on the cross. In Jesus’ day, the wrist was considered to be part of the hand. The ligaments and bones in this area were capable of supporting the weight of a person’s body. 

A drawing of a person

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Fig 4. Nailing of wrists. Left, Size of iron nail. Center, Location of nail in wrist, between carpals and radius. Right, Cross section of wrist, at level of plane indicated at left, showing path of nail, with probable transection of median nerve and impalement of flexor pollicis longus, but without injury to major arterial trunks and without fractures of bones. [20]

After the hands were nailed, the feet were twisted into a painful and unnatural position, placed on top of one another, and a single spike was driven through both feet. None of the nail wounds would have been fatal, but they would all increase the severity of the pain a victim felt while hanging on the cross. 

A close up of a map

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Fig 5. Nailing of feet. Left, Position of feet atop one another and against stipes. Upper right, Location of nail in second inter metatarsal space. Lower right, Cross section of foot, at plane indicated at left, showing path of nail. [21]

“But he was pierced for our rebellion…”
—Isaiah 53:5

Hebrew scholars say that the word “pierced” is the strongest most vivid word available to describe the violent, gruesome and agonizing death Jesus endured…

The word means “pierced through.” This happened to Jesus… His body was pierced in at least five places — both hands, both feet and then in His side.  This doesn’t even include what must have occurred when the “crown of thorns” was forced onto his head.

After the victim’s body was attached to the prone cross, soldiers would elevate the cross and slide the bottom of the vertical post into a deep hole. Once the post and hole were aligned, the soldiers would drop the cross into the hole so that when it hit rock bottom the full weight of the victim’s body would immediately be carried by the nails that had just been driven into the wrists and feet. This would heighten the sensation of pain and likely cause several bones to be pulled out of joint (Psalm 22:14). 

My life is poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax, melting within me.

—Psalm 22:14 NLT

By 9 am on Friday, Jesus was hanging on the cross suspended between heaven and earth, as though unworthy of both. 

Historians indicate that while hanging on the cross, naked and with their body in shock, most victims would lose control of their bodily functions, adding humiliation to the pain, and a pool of blood, sweat, urine and feces would often gather at the base of the cross.[22]  The entire scene was repulsive and grotesque. This is why the Roman statesmen and philosopher, Cicero, wrote, 

“The idea of the cross should never come near the bodies of Roman citizens, 
it should never pass through their thoughts, eyes or ears.”
—Cicero

Victims of crucifixion would experience waves of nausea, fever, intense thirst, constant cramps and incessant and throbbing pain. Sleeplessness, hunger, dehydration and infection all took their toll. Sometimes, the victim would actually survive and linger for three days or more. [23]

Upon getting the cross into position, the soldiers attached a large sign or titulus to the cross above Jesus’ head with the following inscription, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (Matt 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; Jn 19:19).

“This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”
—Matt 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; Jn 19:19

The intention was to add to the mockery and humiliation. The religious leaders were livid. “Change the language! Make it read, ‘He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’’” By this time, however, Pilate had had it with this petty group of men, so he responded, “What I’ve written, I’ve written” (John 19:21-22). 

What Pilate didn’t know and the religious leaders didn’t realize is the fact that Jesus is not only King of the Jews, but He is King of kings and Lord of lords! 

According to Charles Spurgeon, the old Latin version of Psalm 96:10,— contains an amazing statement written hundreds of years before Jesus went to the cross. It reads like this: “Tell it out among the heathen, that the Lord reigneth from the tree.” [24]

“Tell it out among the heathen, that the Lord reigneth from the tree.”
Psalm 96:10 Old Latin Version

Jesus is and was King of kings and Lord of lords. In fact, John would later write,

“On his robe at his thigh was written this title: 
King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” 
—Revelation 19:16 NLT

This “king” wasn’t crucified alone. There were three crosses on Golgotha that day. Jesus was crucified between two thieves (Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27–28,32, Luke 23:33, John 19:18). The Greek word Matthew uses for “revolutionaries, rebels or criminals” indicates that these men were not petty thieves, they were hardened criminals and outlaws. Some speculate that they may have even been Barabbas’ accomplices, which means, the cross Jesus was crucified on could have originally been intended for Barabbas. [25] Even this was a fulfillment of prophecy. 

He was counted among the rebels.
    He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

—Isaiah 53:12b NLT

Crowds passed by and shouted insults at this man hanging from the cross. The religious leaders couldn’t resist the urge to take one last shot at Jesus, “He saved others—he can’t save himself! King of Israel, is he? Then let him get down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then! He was so sure of God—well, let him rescue his ‘Son’ now—if he wants him! He did claim to be God’s Son, didn’t he?” (Matt 27:42-43 MSG). 

Astonishingly, even the criminals joined in the chorus of mockery and ridicule. In the final moments of His life, Jesus became a person completely hated and utterly despised by everyone but his closest friends and family. 

Reaching a point where they could take a break from the action, the four soldiers divided and gambled for Jesus’ clothes. John describes it like this in his gospel:

When they crucified him, the Roman soldiers took his clothes and divided them up four ways, to each soldier a fourth. But his robe was seamless, a single piece of weaving, so they said to each other, “Let’s not tear it up. Let’s throw dice to see who gets it.” This confirmed the Scripture that said, “They divided up my clothes among them and threw dice for my coat.” 
(The soldiers validated the Scriptures!)
—John 19:23-24 MSG

There may have been five pieces of clothing for the soldiers to divide:  

  • leather sandals
  • a headpiece (a cloth-like piece of material – worn like a prayer shawl)
  • a belt (probably made of cloth material, not leather), 
  • a robe-like garment, and,
  • a tunic

This was the traditional clothing for a Jewish man in that culture. Each soldier selected one of the top four items. Then, they gambled for the tunic. Once again, amazingly this was also in fulfillment of an ancient prophecy made hundreds of years before Jesus’ death.

My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
    an evil gang closes in on me.
    They have pierced my hands and feet.
17 I can count all my bones.
    My enemies stare at me and gloat.
18 They divide my garments among themselves
    and throw dice for my clothing.

—Psalm 22:16-18 NLT

Jesus hung on the cross for approximately six hours — from 9 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon. Mark 15:24-25 says that it was 9 am when Jesus was crucified. And Matthew 27:45-46 says that “from noon to 3 pm, the whole earth was dark.“

The length of survival for people who were crucified lasted anywhere from three to four hours to three or four days. The average length was approximately twenty-four hours. Survival length was usually related to the severity and extent of the scourging. However, if the scourging had been mild and the victim lingered, the Roman soldiers would sometime speed the death of the victim by breaking his legs just below the knees. This was called crucifracture. It prevented the victim from pushing himself up to inhale and exhale.   

According to the research paper that appeared in JAMA, it wasn’t uncommon for insects to land upon the open wounds or the eyes, ears and nose of a dying and helpless victim. Sometimes birds of prey would even land on a crucified victim and tear at their flesh. [26] One third century historian described crucifixion like this: “Punished with limbs outstretched…they are fastened and nailed to the stake in the most bitter torment, evil food for birds of prey and grim picking for dogs.” [27]

The Death of Jesus
3 PM on Friday
(Matthew 27:51-66; Mark 15:38-47; Luke 23:45, 47-56; John 19:31-42)

Crucifixion was death by exhaustion, shock, asphyxiation or suffocation. During crucifixion, the stress on the muscles in the diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position. In order to exhale, the crucified person had to push up on his feet so that tension in his chest would be relieved for just a moment. But every time he pushed up, the nail would tear through the feet creating the terrible sensation of pain. This went on and on until complete exhaustion took over and the person wasn’t able to push up any longer to get another breath, so then began to asphyxiate.  

One of the strongest instincts we have is the instinct to breathe. A crucified victim couldn’t simply “turn off” that instinct. History indicates that some victims survived as long as nine days.  That’s why guards were sent to check the bodies of the victims.  

Anne-Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, described Jesus’ crucifixion as follows: 

“Every movement must have added to His torture, reopening the wounds in His back, tearing at the flesh around the bones in His wrists and ankles, and inflicting even greater pain.  But the only way to remain alive was to push up, breathe, then release; push up, breathe, release; push up, breathe, release. Crucifixion was actually a very slow death by suffocation.”  —Anne-Graham Lotz [28]

In an extensive article, Dr. Truman Davis, an ophthalmologist, described death by crucifixion like this: 

      “As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by His arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercoastal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath.  Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the bloodstream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen.

      Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from His lacerated back as He moves up and down against the rough timber; then another agony begins. A deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. 

      It is now almost over…the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues. The tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.” —Dr. Truman Davis [29]

As carbon dioxide began to build in his blood stream, Jesus’ heartbeat probably became irregular alerting him to the fact of his approaching death. Then, after approximately six hours on the cross, at 3 pm Jesus died. 

There are at least three possible causes for Jesus’ death: 

  1. Hypovolemic shock
  2. Exhaustion asphyxia
  3. A ruptured or “broken” heart

“I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.” 

—Psalm 22:14 NIV

[30]

Because Passover was quickly approaching, the religious leaders asked Pilate to break the legs of all three criminals so that they could be buried before Passover and Sabbath. For some reason, Pilate complied with their request. The soldiers broke the legs of the first two criminals, but when they came to Jesus, He was already dead. 

By custom, one of the guards pierced Jesus’ body with a spear. Ordinarily, this was a fatal wound to the heart through the right side of the chest taught to most Roman soldiers. In this case, it fulfilled prophecy and verified the fact that Jesus was already dead (See Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10). 

So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man crucified with Jesus, and then the other. When they got to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers stabbed him in the side with his spear. Blood and water gushed out.
—John 19:32-34 MSG

Dr. Truman Davis writes that John 19:34 is proof of Jesus’ cause of death. He writes that the “blood and water [that] gushed out” was

“…an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart. We, therefore, have rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that [Christ] died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.” —Dr. Truman Davis [31]

You could actually say Jesus died of a broken heart! A heart that was broken for me, for you, and for the entire world. 

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.

How Deep The Father’s Love, Stuart Townend

Seven Sayings of Jesus from the Cross

Because of the physical pain and exhaustion involved in crucifixion, Jesus spoke very little while hanging on the cross. And even that must have been with incredible difficulty. Scripture records only seven brief sayings that Jesus spoke from the cross. But each statement was packed with meaning, filled with grace and demonstrated His control and sovereignty over everything that was going on. 

Jesus’ seven statements from the cross were as follows: 

Jesus’ First Statement from the Cross 

While they were nailing Jesus to the cross, he prayed over and over, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
—Luke 23:34 TPT (Isa 53:12)

The footnote in The Passion Translation reads, “The Greek text implies a repetitive action… As the centurion crushed him to the ground and tied his arms to the crossbeam, Jesus prayed, ‘Father, forgive them.’ When the spikes tore through each quivering wrist, he prayed again, ‘Father, forgive them.’ And when the soldiers parted his garments and gambled for the seamless robe, again Jesus prayed, ‘Father, forgive them.’ Only heaven knows how many times that prayer was spoken.” [32]

Jesus’ Second Statement from the Cross 

At some point during the time Jesus hung on the cross, one of the criminals crucified with him stopped mocking him, interrupted the mocking of the other criminal and said, “Don’t you fear God even when you’ve been sentenced to die. We deserve this, but not Him… He did nothing to deserve this.” (Luke 23:40-41 MSG)

Somehow this criminal had the clarity to throw up a desperate prayer. Hanging naked before God and everyone gathered. Feeling the weight of eternity and his misspent life. Utterly desperate for grace, this man cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He spoke his second recorded saying from the cross. It was a promise of salvation. It was hope to a dying criminal. It was a demonstration of extravagant grace to you and me. 

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
—Luke 23:43 NLT

This is a reminder to every person who has ever questioned the limits of grace or the extent God will go to in order to reach you. Jesus was still extending grace and love in the final moments of His life! He’s doing the same right now! 

Jesus’ Third Statement from the Cross 

In the last moments of his life, Jesus provided care for his mother. 

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, 
“Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
—John 19:26-27 NIV

Jesus’ Fourth Statement from the Cross 

Feeling the weight of our sin pressing and crushing down on him, Jesus cried out to God the Father. 

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about 
three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
—Matthew 27:45-46 NLT (Cf. Psalm 22:1)

If you’ve ever felt alone and abandoned, Jesus felt that way, too. If you’ve ever questioned God, Jesus did that, too. 

This is why the book of Hebrews encourages us: 

“We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been 
through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin.”
—Hebrews 4:15 MSG

Jesus’ Fifth Statement from the Cross 

Jesus demonstrated His humanity. 

Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture 
he said, “I am thirsty.” 
John 19:28 NLT

Jesus’ Sixth Statement from the Cross 

He demonstrated His absolute sovereignty and total victory. 

When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” 
—John 19:30 NLT

Jesus’ Seventh Statement from the Cross

Finally, He surrendered everything He had accomplished to the purpose and plan of God. 

Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” 
And with those words he breathed his last.
—Luke 23:46 NLT

Many believe that the last two statements, statement six and seven, may have been said with the same breath. 

“It is finished. Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”

Everything had come to pass the way Jesus had said it would. Everything had perfectly fulfilled the plan and purpose of God. Our redemption had been accomplished. 

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” 
With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
—John 19:30 NIV

Matthew and Luke tell us that just before His death Jesus shouted with “a loud voice” (Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46). They tell us HOW He shouted. 

John tells WHAT He shouted: “It is finished!”

When Jesus died, he didn’t sigh. He didn’t go out in a whimper of defeat. He shouted with a loud voice! 

The Greek phrase for “a loud voice” is “megas phone” which is a cry of victory or a cry of triumph. It’s the cry of a soldier when he has won a battle or a king when he has won the war. That’s how Jesus cried when he shouted, “It is finished! Father, I trust my Spirit into your hands.” 

Six hours after being nailed to the cross, at approximately 3 pm, Jesus was dead.  

Miracles in the Middle of Murder

At least five supernatural miracles occurred as Jesus died. 

  • The sky turned black at noon (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33)

The day Jesus died, at the moment the sun should have been the brightest, a dark gloom filled the sky and fell over the land, lasting for the next three hours. 

In the Bible, darkness is often connected to the judgment of God. The darkness that filled the sky the day of Jesus’ crucifixion was an indication that the judgment and wrath of God upon all sin had been poured out upon Jesus. On the cross, Jesus died for our sin, and in our place. 

  • The veil within the Temple was torn (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). 

At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple
was torn in two, from top to bottom.
—Matthew 27:51 NLT

The veil was a very thick curtain that separated the entrance into the Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place from the Holy Place in the Temple. The Holy of Holies or Most Holy Place was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. The Ark was the visible symbol of the invisible presence of God. Only one person, the high priest, could go behind the veil, only once a year, on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16), and just long enough to offer the annual sacrifice for the sin of the people. The curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place was 60 feet high and 30 feet wide. We are uncertain as to how thick the veil was. 

But the moment Jesus cried out, “It is finished!”, the veil within the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The specific mention that the curtain was torn from top to bottom is an indication that it was God Himself who was removing the barrier that had separated you and me from His presence.  

God Himself Removed The Barrier!

What’s even more amazing is that the veil was torn during the afternoon sacrifice, the very period of time when the priests were on duty in the Holy Place and the temple was packed with worshipers who were there for the killing of their Passover lambs, the last of which would have been slain at 3 pm. 

By God’s design, the very hour that thousands of lambs were being slain, the true Passover Lamb – the Lamb that all the other lambs merely symbolized and pointed to – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – had died while hanging on the cross!  

When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” and the veil was ripped in two, for the first time ever, priests and people could look from the Holy Place into the Holiest of Holies — the most sacred place in the temple!

What do you think they saw? What did the priests and people in the temple see when they looked into the Holy of Holies for the first time? 

Other than a few pieces of furniture, the answer is nothing! Absolutely nothing! The “lights were out” in the Most Holy Place because the glory of God was no longer housed in that little room! The glory of God was hanging from a cross on the hill called Calvary. And thru that act, God was saying, 

“My son has removed the veil. He has torn down the dividing wall that 
separates you from me and my glory! He has created a way for you to know me, love me, connect with me, and relate to me… 
He has made a way for you to be forgiven and free!”

What kind of impact or effect did the tearing of the veil have on some of the priests who may have been on duty that day? 

Perhaps this event is one of the reasons Acts 6:7 says that “…even a great number of Jewish priests became believers and were obedient to the faith.”   

  • A supernatural earthquake (Matt 27:51)

Not only was the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the temple torn from top to bottom, but there was also a seismic earthquake, powerful enough to split rocks.

At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom.
There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. 
—Matthew 27:51 MSG

The earthquake was like a divine punctuation mark! Maybe it was a reminder of God’s absolute sovereignty! That the religious authorities in Jerusalem, the political power structure in Rome, and the forces of hell and darkness hadn’t placed Jesus on the cross, but God’s sovereign will, purpose and plan had put him there, and that God had received His sacrifice. 

By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through 
the curtain into the Most Holy Place.”
—Hebrews 10:20 NLT

  • Dead people raised and brought back to life! (Matt 27:52-53)

Matthew 27 also adds another interesting detail. Only Matthew mentions this event, but he writes that at the moment Jesus died, another miracle took place. Several believers who had died and had been in and around Jerusalem, were raised back to life! 

…and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who 
had died were raised from the dead. 53 They left the cemetery after 
Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, 
and appeared to many people. 
Matthew 27:52-53 NLT

This is incredible! The moment Jesus cried, “It is finished!” LIFE started breaking out as a result of His DEATH! Hebrews 2:14 would later state that “through death He [destroyed] the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” 

The moment Jesus died there was some kind of mass resurrection! Matthew writes, “The bodies of manygodly men and women…were raised from the dead.” Matthew is letting us know that Jesus’ death itself was a death-defeating death! Jesus’ death actually produced life! 

Jesus’ death itself was a death-defeating death!

After Jesus’ resurrection, all of those who had been raised, walked into Jerusalem and began declaring Jesus’ message of victory and freedom! They were “Plaintiff’s Exhibit #1” that not only had Jesus conquered death for Himself, but He had conquered death for every person on the planet! 

  • A Roman soldier worships! (Matthew 27:54)

This may have been the greatest miracle of all! 

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw 
the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, 
and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
—Matthew 27:54 NIV

A Roman military officer or centurion was usually the commander of a one-hundred man division, the basic building block for a Roman legion. This was probably the guy in charge of Jesus’ crucifixion. He was a trained, hardened executioner who was familiar with death. 

This officer and his soldiers had taken in all of the events of the last several hours. They even perpetrated some of the brutality. But they also had a ringside seat to Jesus’ beauty, grace and dignity in the face of mockery, humiliation, unspeakable pain and murder. 

They were there when the sky turned black. They watched as Jesus prayed for those who were mocking him. They saw Jesus offer grace and forgiveness in the face of jealousy and hatred. They heard Him cry out with a loud voice, “It is finished!” They felt the earthquake! And something about the way Jesus died —  something about all that they had observed — caused this group of trained killers to look at one another and say, “There is no doubt. This man was definitely the Son of God!” (Matt 27:54; Mark 15:38-39; Luke 23:47)

Luke goes so far as to say that this Roman officer actually “worshipped” and “glorified God.” In other words, He did what so many have done who have looked at the sacrifice, love, grace and beauty of the cross over the last 2,000 years. He surrendered His life and said, “There is no doubt! Jesus is the Son of God. I’m trusting my life and future to Him!”

God’s love is reckless! His grace is extravagant! Just think of it! Some of the first people to receive the work the cross was designed to accomplish were the very people who had helped to put Jesus on the cross in the first place!  

The Burial of Jesus
Friday after 3 pm
(Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42)

Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.)

44 Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, 
so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet.
45 The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told
Joseph he could have the body. 46 Joseph bought a 
long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the
cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been
carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. 47 
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother 
of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid. 
—Mark 15:43-47 NLT

Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy Jewish religious leader, a member of the Sanhedrin, who was also a secret follower of Jesus. John 19:39-40 says that Joseph was joined by Nicodemus, another wealthy religious leader. Together they wrapped Jesus’ body in about 75 to 100 pounds of spices and long linen strips. These linen strips later became the empty grave clothes that would give testimony to Jesus’ victory over death and His miraculous resurrection! 

Jesus was then laid in the borrowed tomb of Joseph, a tomb that was carved out of solid rock. Even the burial of Jesus in a rich man’s tomb was a fulfillment of another prophecy by Isaiah, “…he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave” (Isaiah 53:9b NLT). A stone that weighed approximately 1½ to 2 tons was rolled to the entrance of the tomb completely sealing off the body. 

One historian indicates that the stone was so heavy it would have required 20 men to move it! The stone was designed to keep animals from devouring or desecrating the body of a dead loved one. 

The next day, the religious authorities went to Pilate and requested that a guard be placed at the entrance to the tomb. They told him, Sir, we just remembered that that liar announced while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will be raised.’ We’ve got to get that tomb sealed until the third day. There’s a good chance his disciples will come and steal the corpse and then go around saying, ‘He’s risen from the dead.’ Then we’ll be worse off than before…” (Matt 27:63-64 MSG)

It’s probable that the supernatural phenomenon surrounding Jesus’ death — the sun going black, the earthquake, and the veil ripped in two — had these leaders on edge. Pilate granted their request. There’s speculation as to whether the guard was made up of the Roman Guard or members of the Temple Guard. Regardless, both were highly trained. 

Further, Roman guards would have inspected the tomb and then rolled the stone back into its place before sealing the tomb. Sealing the tomb required that a cord be stretched across the rock and fastened at each end with sealing clay. Finally, the clay packs were stamped with the official signet of the Roman governor (Matt 27:66). [33]  

The seal was an official and public testimony that Jesus was actually in the tomb. The seal also verified the fact that His body was protected from vandals by nothing less than the power and authority of the Roman Empire. Anyone who tampered with the seal or tried to move the stone was guilty of a crime punishable by death! 

*   *   *   *   *   *  

All of these events took place in the last seven days of Jesus’ life. 

An intimate act of worship. 

      Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the arriving King! 

            Jesus cleansing the temple and challenging the religious leaders! 

                  A plot hatched to murder Him. 

                        Another intimate act of worship preparing Jesus for His death and burial. 

                  Jesus gathering His disciples for Passover and Holy Communion.

            Jesus praying in the garden.

      Jesus being betrayed and arrested. 

Finally, Jesus being tortured, crucified and buried…  

At first, His closest followers viewed all of this as a horrible travesty of justice and a failure of the purpose and plan of God. But, in reality, this is exactly what God had intended and designed since before our ancestors committed high treason by rebelling against God in the Garden of Eden.           

What Does All This Mean To Me?
Why Did Jesus Die?

Isaiah answers the question in Isaiah 53. 

  • …it was our weaknesses he carried… (v. 4)
  • …it was our sorrows that weighed him down… (v. 4)
  • he was pierced for our rebellion… (v. 5)
  • he was crushed for our sins… (v. 5)
  • …the punishment that brought us peace and wholeness was on him… (v. 5)
  • …by his wounds we are healed… (v. 5)
  • …the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all… (v. 6)
  • He was struck down for the rebellion of my people… (v. 8)
  • His life was made an offering for our sin… (v. 10)
  • …[He] will make it possible for many to be counted righteous… (v. 11)
  • he will bear all their sins… (v. 11)
  • …he bore the sins of many and interceded — He got right in the middle between God’s wrath and us —  for rebels… (v. 12)

If you’ve ever wondered, “What is the heart of Christianity?  What’s at the center of it all?” This is it! The idea of substitution! 

Three Closing Thoughts:

  1. Jesus was BORN to DIE so that we could actually LIVE. 

Do you realize that there are as many details about the crucifixion of Jesus in the Old Testament as there are in the New Testament? 

There are literally dozens of predictions and prophecies about Jesus’ crucifixion in the OT. Seven hundred to one thousand years before Jesus was even born, the prophets described specific details like this…

Jesus would be… 

  • rejected by his own people. (Isaiah 53:3)
  • betrayed by a friend. (Psalm 41:9)
  • sold for thirty pieces of silver. (Zechariah 11:12)
  • accused by false witnesses. (Psalm 35:11)
  • stand silent when accused. (Isaiah 53:7)
  • scorned and mocked. (Psalm 22:7)
  • spat upon and humiliated. (Isaiah 50:6)
  • crucified with criminals. (Isaiah 53:12)
  • further humiliated as soldiers gambled for his clothes. (Psalm 22:18)
  • given vinegar mixed with gall to drink. (Psalm 69:21)

The OT predicted that Jesus would pray for his enemies (Psalm 109:4), that none of his bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20), and, that He would be buried in a rich man’s grave (Isaiah 53:9)! 

Why point all of this out? What does all this mean? It means that… 

Jesus was born to die!

The crucifixion of Jesus wasn’t an accident! It was a divine appointment! 

From the opening moments of Jesus’ life we get glimpses of this. For instance, when Joseph and Mary took their newborn son to the temple for His “christening” or “dedication” and an old man, a prophet named Simeon, held Jesus in his arms and praised God for the fulfillment of His promise, He looked at Mary and said, “…a sword will pierce through your very own soul…” (Luke 2:52)

In other words, “This child was born to die!” That must have horrified Mary. Thirty-three years later she would actually live to see it take place. 

When Jesus’ own relative, John, introduced Him, John introduced Jesus like this: “Here He is! God’s Passover Lamb! He forgives the sin of the world.” (John 1:29 MSG)

Revelation 13:8 says that Jesus is “…the Lamb of God who was slaughtered before the world was made.” 

The point? 

Jesus was born to die so that you and I could actually live!
His death made possible our lives!

Do you remember the sixth statement of Jesus from the cross? John 19:30 says that when Jesus died, He cried out in a loud voice, “It is finished!” 

In Hebrew, the word is “kalah”. It’s the word that was used by the temple priest after all the sacrificial Passover lambs had been slaughtered. The priest would cry, “It is finished!” When Jesus said the same thing He was announcing the end of that entire system! 

Passover started on Thursday at about 3 pm and concluded on Friday at about 3 pm so that the Passover Lamb could be roasted before Sabbath or Shabbat began at 6 pm. 

Track with me… Jesus died at around 3 pm on Friday, at the very moment the last Passover lamb was being sacrificed. At the same time the temple priest was saying, “kalah” — “It is finished!”; Jesus, hanging on the cross was also saying, “kalah” — “It is finished!”  

The Greek New Testament term translated, “It is finished!” is “tetelestai”, which can be translated “paid in full.”  In other words, when Jesus died, the sacrifice for sin was complete. The penalty for sin had been paid. Our eternal destiny was sealed!

Get this: Jesus’ death was not just the end of His life, it was the accomplishment of His mission. On the cross, Jesus – God in the flesh – willingly took our place! He died for our sin, in our place! 

He was born to die so that we could actually live! 

  • Jesus was WOUNDED so that we could be HEALED. 

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
—Isaiah 53:4-5 NIV

Notice that Isaiah, looking towards the cross said, “…we are healed.”

Peter, in his 1st letter, looked back at the cross and quoted Isaiah’s prophecy like this: 

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 
—1 Peter 2:24 NIV

The KJV and NAS render the last phrase, “you were healed.”

Pardon the English, but I love the way one man said it,  

Somewhere between, “You ARE healed” and, “You WERE healed,”  
You IS healed!

Matthew quotes Isaiah and describes the ministry of Jesus like this: 

“He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”
—Matthew 8:16-17 NLT

Jesus is our “wounded healer.”  Our healing — body, soul, mind, spirit, emotions — our complete and total healing, was made possible because Jesus was willing to be wounded. Our wholeness was made possible because of His brokenness. 

  • Jesus bore the WEIGHT of GOD’S JUDGMENT so we could escape judgment and receive GOD’S MERCY! 

If I had been one of the people watching as Jesus was nailed to that crossbeam, I’m sure I would have thought, “He was a criminal! There’s the proof! I mean he’s hanging on cross, being mocked and humiliated.”

But Jesus wasn’t hanging there because of His own sins. He was hanging there for my sins! He was taking the punishment I deserved! He was dying for my sins, in my place! 

British scholar, John Stott, described it like this: 

“The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for us.  We…put ourselves where only God deserves to be; [but] God…puts Himself where we deserve to be.” —John Stott [34]

2 Corinthians 5:21 contains a staggering statement: 

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, 
so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
—2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT

At the cross, all of our sins were placed on Jesus! All of them! And, at the cross, all of his perfection and righteousness was placed upon us. All of it! 

At the cross, all of our sins were placed on Jesus and all of 
His perfection and righteousness was placed upon us.

On the cross, Jesus became our substitute! He was made to be the worst of what we are, so we could become the best of what He is. He never sinned, but on the cross He was made to be sin for us. Martin Luther called this, “the great exchange.”  Others have described it as “a beautiful, divine exchange”. 

On the cross, Jesus exchanged His perfection for our imperfection, His obedience for our disobedience, His intimacy with the Father for our distance from the Father. He exchanged His blessing for our curse, and His life for our death!  He took our sin, so we could receive His perfection. Once again, He came to die, so that we could really live. 

I love the way Sally Lloyd-Jones describes it in her book, The Jesus Storybook Bible.” Sally writes:

They nailed Jesus to the cross.  

‘Father, forgive them,’ Jesus gasped.  ‘They don’t understand what they’re doing.’

‘You say you’ve come to rescue us!’ people shouted.  ‘But you can’t even rescue yourself!’

But they were wrong.  Jesus could have rescued himself. A legion of angels would have flown to his side – if He’d called. 

‘If you were really the Son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!’ they said. 

And of course they were right.  Jesus could have just climbed down.  Actually, he could have just said a word and made it all stop…

But Jesus stayed.  

You see, they didn’t understand.  It wasn’t the NAILS that kept Jesus there.  IT WAS LOVE…’

Even though it was midday, a dreadful darkness covered the face of the world. The sun could not shine. The earth trembled and quaked. The great mountains shook. Rocks split in two. Until it seemed that the whole world would break.  That creation itself would tear apart.  

The full force of the storm of God’s fierce anger at sin was coming down.  On his own Son. Instead of his people. It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy his children whose hearts were filled with sin.”[35]

Because of what Jesus willingly did at the cross, today when God looks at you and me all He sees is the sinless beauty and perfection of His Son! 

The cross is all about God’s reckless love and extravagant grace that refuses to give up on us and refuses to leave us where it found us!  The grace of God defies logic and expectations!  

I love the way one guy described the grace of God. He wrote: 

 “Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable… Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver… [Grace] is one-way love.” [36]

Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve.  

We deserve judgment, but He gives mercy.  
We deserve death, but He gives life.  
We deserve God’s rejection and hatred, but He 
pours on acceptance and love. 
We deserve distance from God, but He makes 
intimacy and closeness possible! 
We deserve weakness and failure, but He gives strength and a brand new start! 

Grace means that God doesn’t respond to me based on what I deserve. He responds to me based on what Jesus has already done. Grace is God looking at us and seeing Jesus. 

As we come to the conclusion of this examination of the final week of Jesus’ life, I’ll close with the words of this old song by the great, Andre Crouch. 

“I don’t know why Jesus loved me
I don’t know why He cared
I don’t know why He sacrificed His life
Oh but I’m glad I’m glad He did!”

—Andrea Crouch, 1971

A Prayer For Responding to What Jesus Has Done For You!

 “Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me. I realize that I’ve sinned. My sin has separated me from You. But today, I make a decision to stop trusting in my own efforts and to start trusting in what Jesus has already accomplished. I believe that Jesus died for my sins and in my place. I ask that You forgive my sins and lead my life. Today I choose to trust Jesus. Amen.”


[1] Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, page 197. 

[2] Footnote in The Passion Translation of John 19:12. Footnote also references P. Barnett, Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1999, p. 147

[3] Michael Card, A Violent Grace, page 57-58.  

[4] Michael Card, A Violent Grace, page 58. 

[5] William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, M Div; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI, JAMA – The Journal of the American Medical Association March 21, 1986, Volume 256 Copyright 1986, American Medical Association

[6] Quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, page 195. 

[7] Quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ, page 195. 

[8] William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, M Div; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI, JAMA – The Journal of the American Medical Association March 21, 1986, Volume 256 Copyright 1986, American Medical Association

[9] See note in ESV Study Bible on Matthew 27:27. 

[10] Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection 

[11] https://catholicinsight.com/the-physical-effects-of-the-scourging-and-crucifixion-of-jesus/

[12] Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, Jesus: A Theography, page 222. 

[13] John MacArthur, The Murder of Jesus, page 198. 

[14] Mark Driscoll, Vintage Jesus, page 108

[15] Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection, page unknown. 

[16] Greg Gilbert, Ibid, pages 71-72.

[17] https://www.waterfromrock.org/2011/04/18/april-18/

[18] William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, M Div; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI, JAMA – The Journal of the American Medical Association March 21, 1986, Volume 256 Copyright 1986, American Medical Association

[19] Dr. Alexander Metherell quoted in The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, page 198.

[20] William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, M Div; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI, JAMA – The Journal of the American Medical Association March 21, 1986, Volume 256 Copyright 1986, American Medical Association

[21] William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, M Div; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI, JAMA – The Journal of the American Medical Association March 21, 1986, Volume 256 Copyright 1986, American Medical Association

[22] Mark Driscoll, Vintage Jesus, page 110.  Also, Andrew Wilson, God Stories, page 168.  

[23] John MacArthur, The Murder of Jesus, page 200. 

[24] Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Volume 4, page 347, Psalm 96:10. 

[25] John MacArthur, The Murder of Jesus, page 204. 

[26] William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, M Div; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI, JAMA – The Journal of the American Medical Association March 21, 1986, Volume 256 Copyright 1986, American Medical Association

[27] Quoted by Craig Evans, The World of Jesus and the Early Church and other works. 

[28] Anne-Graham Lotz, Just Give Me Jesus, p 226. 

[29] Dr Truman Davis, The Crucifixion of Jesus; The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View, Arizona Medicine, vol 22, March 1965, pp 183-87. 

[30] William D. Edwards, MD; Wesley J. Gabel, M Div; Floyd E Hosmer, MS, AMI, JAMA – The Journal of the American Medical Association March 21, 1986, Volume 256 Copyright 1986, American Medical Association

[31] Dr Truman Davis, The Crucifixion of Jesus; The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View, Arizona Medicine, vol 22, March 1965. Also, quoted by Josh McDowell in The Resurrection Factor

[32] The Passion Translation Footnote [a] of Luke 23:34

[33] Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Kindle Edition, page 255 of 798. 

[34] John Stott, quoted by Tim Keller in The Reason for God, page 195.  

[35] Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible, pages 304-306.  

[36] Tchividjian, Tullian (2013-10-01). One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World (Kindle Location 206 and 213). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.

Published by Chris Goins

My name is Chris Goins. I live in Birmingham, AL where I serve as the Lead Pastor of A2 Church + a certified John Maxwell Speaker + Coach. Welcome to my blog - a collection of ideas, quotes, insights, message notes + dynamic content intended to motivate you to reach your God-given potential + live a life of freedom and significance.

One thought on “The Week That Changed the World: Part 6

  1. I found it hard to breathe while reading the facts of being crucified. I knew you had to push yourself up to get a breathe but I don’t know how Jesus did it with what he had already endured. The Son of God became my sacrifice for my sin! Once again I will say my heart hurts…but I’m so so GRATEFUL! Chris you have done an outstanding job with your vital information and research. God’s Blessings be upon You. Tomorrow 4.3.21. Getting ready for something big.

    Like

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