The whole assembly, that is, all of the accusers who came to the garden, they were men with evil on their hearts, men with false accusations with one thing on their mind, to get rid of Jesus once and for all, Matthew 17:27 / Mark 12:17.
Since Jesus was sinless, the only option they had was to make up a bunch of lies about Him to get Him charged. It was no longer the Israel of God, but their nation.
Pilate was honest enough to declare that he found no basis to charge Jesus, this was in accordance with Roman law, Matthew 27:11 / 1 Timothy 8:13.
Jesus’ teaching did stir up the people, but the people who were stirred up weren’t the common people, it was the religious leaders, Mark 7:1-9 and it was because of Jesus speaking out against their traditions and practices they wanted Him killed. Pilate sends Jesus off to Herod.
Herod Antipas was the ruler of Galilee and Perea, which was where most of Jesus’ ministry took place. This is where we know that earlier the Pharisees did lie about Herod wanting to kill Jesus, Luke 13:31 because here we see that Herod had an opportunity to do so, but didn’t, because he will send Jesus back to Pilate.
Herod only wanted to see Jesus because he’s heard of the many miracles that Jesus had performed, it’s clear he thought of Jesus as some showman or magician who was here to entertain the masses, Acts 4:26-27.
Jesus didn’t answer Herod because He didn’t accept his authority, Herod had no place of authority. We also see the tremendous self-control of Jesus, He knew exactly what was happening and what would eventually happen, John 10:17-18.
Notice that Pilate and Herod became friends. The hatred may have started between Pilate and Herod when Pilate had previously put down a probable insurrection in Galilee that was under Herod’s jurisdiction, Luke 13:1-2. Whatever the reason was for their hatred of each other seems to be laid to rest at this point.
Although the Jewish leaders had tried Jesus and convicted Him of blasphemy, they led Him to the Roman governor Pilate for yet another trial, Mark 15:1-15.
The Jews didn’t have the authority to carry out sentences of capital punishment that were determined by their own courts; capital crimes had to be tried by Roman officials.
Thus, very early the next morning they brought Jesus to Pilate, hoping that he would concur with their decision. They accused Jesus of many things, but He remained silent.
Pilate was amazed that He didn’t try to defend Himself. The governor perceived that this was not really a question of criminal action, but that the Jews were jealous of Jesus.
From this account, by Mark, we learn that Barabbas was a terrorist against the Roman government. He was possibly a member of the Zealot group of Jews whose ambition was to free Palestine from Roman occupation. On this occasion and others, it seems that Pilate was trying to find some reason to release Jesus.
It was a custom of the Roman governor to release someone during the Passover feast. This was done in order to appease the most radical Jews of the Roman Empire who were in Jerusalem at this time.
The nationalistic emotions of the multitudes, therefore, were running high. As governor of the region, Pilate had to make compromises with the intense Jewish multitudes in order to prevent riots in the city.
Therefore, he made several attempts to release Him. He was eager to appease the Jews, just like many politicians do today, however, he was unable to persuade them that Jesus should be released.
Though he didn’t believe Jesus was guilty, he ended up sentencing Him to death because he feared the start of a riot. Roman soldiers scourged Jesus, mocked Him, and led Him out to be crucified.
Jesus suffered intensely in His last few hours. After being up all night, subjected to the stress of six different trials, if we compare the accounts in Matthew, Luke and John, also, He was scourged.
Scourging was accomplished by tying bits of bone, metal and glass to a whip and then striking the victim’s back. This procedure produced excruciating pain, much loss of blood and sometimes even death. The victim’s back became a bloody mass.
Remember the Jews practised scourging, which consisted of 39 lashes, but here the Romans had no restrictions on how many lashes they delivered on the victim, they would carry on until the one doing the lashing would tire.
In John 19:1-6, we read about the final trial of Jesus and we get a little knowledge of Pilate’s character and his unpopularity with the Jews helps us to understand his behaviour on this occasion. ‘Flogging,’ Luke 23:16, was the governor’s attempt to convince the Jews that Jesus had suffered enough and should be released.
Once again, all four Gospels mention the flogging but say absolutely nothing about it, there is no attempt to play upon the reader’s emotions. Also, at that age, people were perfectly familiar with it and needed no explanations.
Flogging was usually administered to one who was about to be crucified, Antiochus Epiphanies used it to force Jews to eat swine’s flesh, 2 Maccabees 6:30 / 2 Maccabees 7:1. The flagellum was similar to the ‘cat o’ nine tails’, a handle with leather thongs, tipped with bone or metal.
The prisoner was stripped to the waist, then bound in a stooping position to post. The blows were applied to the back and loins, sometimes even, to the face and the bowels. So, hideous was the punishment that the victim usually fainted with and not rarely died under it.
Eusebius describes the death of Christian martyrs at Smyrna about 155 A.D., ‘so torn with scourges that their veins were laid bare, and the inner muscles and sinews, and even the bowels, were exposed’. Josephus tells of a man who was ‘flogged to the bone’ before a Roman governor.
It was often a prelude to crucifixion, but in this case, it wasn’t as Pilate later tries to have Jesus released and this flogging was an attempt to satisfy the Jews without killing Jesus.
The soldiers went further than just flogging and placed a crown of thorns upon His head. This was a mock Coronation for the one claiming to be the king of the Jews and it was followed by mock worshipping of Him.
There are two thoughts concerning, ‘a crown of thorns.’
1. That it was an instrument of torture, long sharp spikes turned inward, or
2. That it was a radiant crown, with the spikes turned outward, similar in appearance to a crown worn by an emperor.
There is a shrub in Palestine called ‘spina Christi’ or ‘palimus shrub’ which has long, sharp spikes, and leaves similar to the ivy used for emperors or general’s crowns, this is the traditional source of the crown of thorns.
John records ‘a purple robe’ whilst Mathew records a ‘scarlet’ robe, Matthew 27:28. Purple, with the ancients, was a vague term for bright, rich colour, and would be used of crimson as well as violet. It was probably the cloak of a Roman soldier, i.e., an officer.
The ‘robe’, ‘himatismos’, is used generally for costly or stately raiment, the apparel of kings, of officials etc., Luke 7:25 / Matthew 27:28 / Matthew 27:31.
Matthew tells that they ‘put a reed in his hand’, Matthew 27:29 and note the tense, ‘they kept coming up to Him, kept striking Him,’ John 19:3, it was repeated action, Matthew 27:27-30 tells us ‘the whole battalion’ was involved.
The picture is of a soldier after soldier coming up to Jesus, kneeling before Him, slapping Him, spitting on Him and shouting, ‘Hail king of the Jews!’
In John 19:4 we see Pilate for the second time telling the people that he can find no charge with which to charge Jesus. He ought to have released Jesus at this point, if the prisoner’s guilt or innocence had been the sole consideration, Jesus would have been set free before this, but he is afraid of possible political repercussions.
When Jesus comes out, Pilate shows Him to the crowd, ‘here is your man!’, this was an attempt to gain sympathy for Jesus as if to say, ‘look at this poor fellow!’ How could they accuse such a pitiable object of treason? It’s a weak attempt to free Jesus. The governor is almost begging the Jews to show pity for the prisoner.
No doubt he shows them the wounds that have been inflicted in the hope that they would now be satisfied, but alas the appearance of Jesus only makes the mob rowdier and bloodthirsty. You never get rid of a pack of wolves by showing them blood!
It ought to be noted that the call ‘crucify, crucify’ came not from the mob, but specifically from the religious authorities. The response of the chief priests and officers is simply, ‘crucify! Crucify!’ The word ‘him’ isn’t in the text.
This has been called ‘an ominous chant, a monotonous refrain, ‘Crucify! Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!’ manipulated by their rulers, the mob shouted the same demand, Matthew 27:20-23.
In John 19:6-16 we see Pilate’s final decision. For the third time Pilate pronounces Jesus innocent, ‘I find no crime in him’, the Gospels stress the same point, Matthew 27:23-24 / Mark 15:14 / Luke 23:4 / Luke 23:13-15 / Luke 23:22.
The governor taunts the Jews with the words, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him.’ Pilate would rather they should do their dirty work themselves than that he should be forced into a decision contrary to his conscience.
They couldn’t have Jesus killed without Pilate’s official permission, also, if they had that and executed Him according to the Law of Moses, it would be by stoning.
They didn’t ever practice crucifixion, but they wanted Jesus crucified, so, Pilate must condemn Jesus and the Romans must carry out the sentence of death.
Pilate knows that the Jews aren’t allowed to crucify someone and the offer to them here isn’t genuine, but an attempt to get the crowd to move away. He is afraid of them and wants this problem to go away as soon as possible.
The Jews again refer to the Law, specifically Leviticus 24:16, and declare the need for the disposal of the ‘guilty one’. Pilate knows that it’s the policy of Rome to allow the natives religious freedom, as long as they worship the Caesar claiming deity as well. The Jews are aware of this policy and hope to use it to persuade the reluctant Pilate.
They have tried to have Jesus condemned for sedition, Luke 23:2, now, here in John 19:7 they are forced to reveal the real charge against him, ‘he ought to die because he made himself the Son of God’.
The charge was blasphemy, and their ‘Law’ of Moses called for the death penalty, Leviticus 24:16. It was on this charge that the Sanhedrin had condemned Jesus to death, Mark 14:61-64 / Matthew 27:23-66, but they don’t reveal this until they are forced to do so. If Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was false, then the Sanhedrin was right in condemning Him to death for blasphemy.
John 19:8 tells us that the governor was already a frightened man, two things would have made him afraid, 1. His wife’s message, Matthew 27:19 and 2. The words and demeanour of Jesus. And so, Pilate takes Jesus into the Praetorium, and asked, ‘where are you from?’, ‘to what world do you belong?’
He seems to get into a rage and he can’t fathom what Jesus is all about. He arrogantly brags about his power, trying to get a response out of Jesus, even offering his freedom for the correct answers.
Notice that Jesus didn’t answer, perhaps because worldly Pilate had already been told, and could not grasp the answer, John 18:37-38. Perhaps also because a man who would scourge a prisoner, he had declared innocent did not deserve a reply.
To the governor, a kingdom based entirely on ‘Truth’ was incomprehensible, for Jesus to have said that He was the Son of God who had come from heaven would have been more so.
Refusing to answer could be regarded as ‘contempt of court’, Pilate, as Tiberius’ representative, had the power of life and death over a prisoner. He says, ‘do you not know that I have power ‘exousia’ to release you, and power ‘exousia’ to crucify you?’ The governor’s ‘exousia’ was delegated authority, derived from Caesar.
Calmly Jesus tells Pilate of the origin of His power, His authority is ‘given from above’, from God, Romans 13:1. God had trusted Him with the power He has, and He is answerable to God for the way He uses that power.
Jesus reassures Pilate that he is not totally to blame for putting the Son of God to death as he does so out of ignorance of the truth.
Caiaphas, acting officially for the Sanhedrin, had delivered Jesus to Pilate, he had ‘the greater sin’. The deeper guilt lies with the man who ‘handed me over to you’.
This is Jesus’ final statement to Pilate and in it He affirms God’s supremacy, He is in control of human affairs and also man’s accountability, the Jewish rulers and the Roman governors are answerable to God.
John tells us in John 19:12-16, that Pilate knew that Jesus was no leader of the sedition against Rome, he was also frightened, so he ‘sought’, notice again the tense, ‘kept on seeking’, to free Him.
John doesn’t say how he did so, but he records that the governor finally gave up the efforts because of fear. The chief priests however had the Law, they ought to have recognised the Messiah, but instead, they are about to force His execution.
This short speech of Jesus impresses Pilate, who recognises some characteristics that he doesn’t quite understand so, he tries again to persuade the Jews to allow him to allow Jesus to go free.
The Jews shouted, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friends’, this was political blackmail and it ended the efforts to release Jesus.
The Jews were saying, ‘free this man and we will accuse you to the Emperor. The charge against you will be high treason, that you released a man who claimed to be King of the Jews’.
Tiberius was a very suspicious ruler, even a hint of disloyalty would be disastrous for a Roman official. Pilate knew that a charge of high treason could cost him a position, liberty and life and so, this frightened him and then he decided to put personal safety before justice, to condemn an innocent man to death.
The Jews’ new weapon against Jesus is all-powerful against Pilate, Jesus claims to be the king thus, He opposes Caesar who is the king of all the vast Roman domains.
This was the ultimate hypocrisy as all present knew that the Jews didn’t consider Caesar their king and held no allegiance to him. This very good argument must have again caused a troubled Pilate to slip into a rage, but they now had him in a corner.
Pilate makes one last attempt to change the mob’s mind, they will not hear of it, they want Jesus dead. Verse thirteen could imply that Pilate had Jesus sit on the judgement seat, the Greek could have either meaning.
The Jew’s threat has decided Pilate and at once he prepares to pass sentence, he ‘brought Jesus out’, that is out of the Praetorium and ‘sat down on the judgment seat’, Acts 18:12 / Acts 18:16-17, this was a raised platform on which roman judge sat to pronounce sentence.
‘The pavement’, ‘luthostratos’, was stone-paved, Josephus states that Temple Mount was covered with a mosaic pavement. Hebrew ‘Gabbatha’, means raised place, elevation. John 19:14 seems to make this quite possible, Pilate showing the Jews a weak, blood-covered man not able even to stand and needing the seat more than Pilate.
The Day of Preparation was the day before Passover, which began at the next sunset. John mentions it was ‘about the sixth hour’, scholars and commentators are divided about whether John here uses Jewish or Roman time. Jewish time is noon, but Roman time is 6 a.m.
John is in Asia Minor, writing toward the end of the first century when Jerusalem has been destroyed and the Jewish state ceased to exist.
It would be natural for him to give the time according to Roman reckoning. In Mark 15:25, Mark would use Jewish reckoning, at 6 a.m. the trial was in progress, at 9 a.m. Jesus was crucified.
When Pilate says, ‘Behold your King!’, this was a joke in bad taste at the expense of the Jews. ‘They yelled, ‘off with him! Off with him! Crucify Him!’ Pilate replied, ‘the King of you shall I crucify?’ The chief priests who were the religious leaders and teachers of the nation replied, ‘we have no king but Caesar.’
They claimed that as Israel was God’s special nation, God was their only King and they hated Caesar and bitterly resented the Roman occupation.
With the use of the argument by the mob, in favour of Caesar, Pilate knows that he has lost, to satisfy them, he hands Jesus over to be crucified.
This declaration was ‘the crowning apostasy of Judaism’ and ‘the utterance of a nation turned traitor to its noblest traditions. Notice that John doesn’t record Pilate’s ‘hand washing’, Matthew 27:24-26.
Mark 15:16-20, tell us about how the soldiers mocked Jesus. Imagine striking the very One who created the universe! Imagine striking the very One who created them! Colossians 1:16.
After scourging Him, they took thorns, wove them into a crown, put it on Jesus’ head, and began to beat on it, causing intense pain. They put a scarlet robe on Him, Matthew 27:28, Mark’s account calls it purple, only to later rip it off, undoubtedly tearing open the blood-dried wounds on His back in the process. Then came the crucifixion.
The trials before the Roman authorities started with Pilate, John 18:23, after Jesus was beaten. The charges brought against Him were very different from the charges in His religious trials.
He was charged with inciting people to riot, forbidding the people to pay their taxes, and claiming to be King. Pilate found no reason to kill Jesus, so he sent Him to Herod, Luke 23:7. Herod had Jesus ridiculed, but wanting to avoid the political liability, sent Jesus back to Pilate, Luke 23:11-12.
This was the last trial as Pilate tried to appease the animosity of the Jews by having Jesus scourged. The Roman scourge is a terrible whipping of 39 lashes.
In a final effort to have Jesus released, Pilate offered the prisoner Barabbas to be crucified and Jesus released, but to no avail. The crowds called for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified. Pilate granted their demand and surrendered Jesus to their will, Luke 23:25.
The trials of Jesus represent the ultimate mockery of justice. Jesus, the most innocent man in the history of the world, was found guilty of crimes and sentenced to death by crucifixion.
1. No formal change had been made against Him.
2. The arrest was made by the men who would be His judges. The High Priests and the Sanhedrin were also the ones who accused Him which violating the Law which said that the Council was not permitted to lay charges.
3. The trial was held, at night. Forbidden by the Law, because it was believed that the darkness might bind the mind of the accused a cause him to testify against himself.
4. His questioning by the High Priest was alone forbidden by the Law. The Judges were not allowed to question the accused, because he might be led into providing evidence against himself.
5. The law required the High Priest to ‘search, enquire and ask diligently’, if the charge against the accused was true, Deuteronomy 13:14.
6. A trial could not be held before sunrise. So that potential witnesses for the defence could be present.
7. A guilty verdict could not be pronounced on the same day as the trial. A night must intervene between trial and sentence so that the Judges could meditate on the verdict.
8. After the verdict, a period of nine hours must be allowed for potential objections to be made to the verdict.
9. The verdict must be pronounced in the Chamber of Stones, the room in the Temple, where the Sanhedrin held its Meetings, before being made public.
10. The death sentence was invalid because it was not the unanimous verdict of the full Council. Joseph of Arimathea was not present, Luke 23:50-51.
11. The testimony of the witnesses, procured by the Priests, on which the ‘Guilty’ verdict was based, was false. They claimed that Jesus said, ‘I will destroy this Temple’.
12. The Law forbade the holding of a Trial on a Friday. The trial was illegal because it was held on a day that was followed by an Annual Sabbath, the Passover, John 18:28.
After Jesus was flogged, we know that He carried His own crossbar, weighing in at 75 to 125 pounds and He carried it outside the main city walls. The upright part of the cross was probably permanently mounted in the crucifixion area.
The crossbar would be balanced on the shoulders, and His arms were tied to the crossbar. We can only imagine what this would have been like, if He tripped or fell, He couldn’t use His arms to break their fall, He would likely fall face-first into the ground.
Once Jesus reached the place for crucifixion, Golgotha, He was offered a drink of wine mixed with myrrh to act as a mild pain killer. Although this was a kind gesture, usually done by the women, Jesus refused to drink, Mark 15:23.
As they went out of the city gates, Simon from Cyrene, which is in north Africa, Acts 2:10 / Acts 6:9 / Acts 11:20 / Acts 13:1, was forced to carry the cross of Jesus. There were also two thieves who were carrying their crosses with Jesus, Luke 23:32.
There was a large number of women who mourned and wailed for Jesus, Jesus turns to speak to them and tells them that they should mourn for themselves. Jesus knows the calamities that were about to come upon them in the desolation of their city by the Romans.
On each side, they crucified a common thief to show their contempt for Him, Isaiah 53:9 / Isaiah 53:12. This was the darkest hour in the world’s history, yet out of the darkness would soon come light as Jesus conquered death and the grave.
With Him, they crucified two thieves, Isaiah 53:9-12. He was numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12. They blasphemed Him, wagging their heads, Psalm 22:6-7 / Psalm 69:7 / Mark 15:29. The chief priests are also mocking Him, Psalm 69:19. Jesus was certainly the prophesied Messiah.
Matthew tells us in Matthew 27:38-44, that bystanders laughed at the idea that He could rebuild the temple when He couldn’t even save Himself.
Come down from the cross, they taunted, and we’ll believe in You! Some Jewish officials standing nearby smirked that He had been able to save others, but was powerless to save Himself. Even the two thieves who were executed on either side of the Lord ridiculed Him, Luke 23:39-43.
When they arrived at a place called Skull, Psalm 22:16-18 / Matthew 27:33-44 / John 19:17-18, that is, Calvary, Matthew 27:33-34 / Mark 15:22-23 / John 19:16-17, Jesus and the two men were crucified.
It’s near the end of Jesus’ human life, He senses it, He has hung on the cross for six hours now. It has become hard for Jesus to even get a breath. Hung from His arms, He must pull Himself up each time He wants to breathe. But even still, He’s thinking of others.
Does Jesus mean, to forgive only those soldiers who carried out the crucifixion? Is He asking God to forgive only those who were present that day?
Possibly, I personally believe He’s speaking about every single sin that mankind as a whole has committed against God, since creation. He’s paying the price for the sins of the world and prays for God to forgive us all because none of us knew what we were doing until we became Christians, we were all enemies of God without realising it, Romans 5:6-10.
The people at the time of Jesus, much like us today didn’t understand the extent of their evil hearts nor recognise Him as the true Messiah. ‘For if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.’ 1 Corinthians 2:8.
Yes, they committed many sins that day for which they will be held accountable on the Day of Judgement, but they will not consciously and intentionally crucify the Messiah.
And just like we didn’t realise how our sin caused Him to go to the cross, we didn’t know that in a sense we crucified the Saviour of the world.
What we see here with these words, is the great intercessor at work Isaiah 53:12 / 1 John 2:1-2.
Even on the cross hours before His death, we see Jesus thinking of others and despite the evil, all of mankind had done through the ages, He still asks the Father to forgive them.
The cross should always be our example when it comes to forgiving others. He taught us to pray in His prayer, ‘Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.’ Luke 11:4
And if we have an example anywhere in Scripture of someone following Jesus’ example in terrible circumstances it’s Stephen. Here he is in front of the religious leaders, who were getting angrier with him by the moment because he spoke the truth and they didn’t like it.
They picked up stones to stone him to death and just before Steepen died, he said, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them. When he had said this, he fell asleep.’ Acts 7:60.
The cross is our example of forgiveness, and Paul reminds us of this when he wrote, ‘Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ Colossians 3:13
Jesus was crucified at about 9:00 a.m. Friday, some say Thursday, at a place outside Jerusalem called Golgotha or Calvary. In English, it means ‘skull’. Notice they divided His garments, which was another prophecy which was being fulfilled, Psalms 22:18.
Crucifixion is an ancient method of execution, in which the victim was tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang there until death. It was never performed for ritual or symbolic reasons, usually, its purpose was only to provide a particularly painful, gruesome, and public death, using whatever means were most expedient for that goal.
The history of crucifixion can be traced back to the ancient Persians and there’s evidence to support the Greeks practising this form of torture. As always, the Romans adopted the custom from Carthage and used it for slaves, rebels, and anyone who were their enemies, along with criminals.
While most Roman citizens were exempt from crucifixion, if you were a Roman and found guilty of treason, then you could face crucifixion. Crucifixion was considered a humiliating way to die.
The prisoner usually had to carry the horizontal beam, patibulum, to the place of execution, not necessarily the whole cross. Crucifixion was an art form for the Romans who had specially trained men to carry out the sentence, there would usually be a commanding centurion and four soldiers.
When it was done in an established place of execution, the vertical beam, stipes. was sometimes permanently embedded in the ground.
The horizontal beam of the cross, transom, could be fixed at the very top of the vertical piece, the upright, to form a ‘T’ called a tau cross. The horizontal beam could also be affixed at some distance below the top, often in a mortise, to form a ‘t-shape’ called a Latin cross.
Alternatively, the cross could consist of two diagonal beams to form an ‘X’. A single, vertical wooden stake with no transom at all has also been cited by some.
The ‘nails’ were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7-inch-long with a square shaft 3/8 inch across. The victim was probably affixed to the cross by ropes, nails, or some combination of the two.
In popular depictions of the crucifixion, possibly derived from a literal reading of the description in the Gospel of John, of Jesus’ wounds being ‘in the hands’, the victim is shown supported only by nails driven straight through the feet and the palms of the hands.
However, the flesh of the hands can’t support a person’s body weight, so some other means must have been used to support most of the weight, such as tying the wrists to the cross beam.
Another possibility, that doesn’t require tying, is that the nails were inserted just above the wrist, between the two bones of the forearm. the radius and the ulna.
The nails could also be driven through the wrist, in a space between four carpal bones which is the location shown in the Shroud of Turin. As some historians have suggested, the Gospel words that are translated as ‘hands,’ may have in fact included everything below the mid-forearm.
Another possibility is that the nails may have been driven in on an angle, entering in the palm in the crease that delineates the bulky region at the base of the thumb, and exiting in the wrist, passing through the carpal tunnel.
The Romans would often display the victims, still on the cross, in rows, there would be row after row of condemned criminals lining the streets of the main entrance to the city, so that everyone entering a new city would know what would happen to them if they didn’t adhere to Roman laws and regulations. It also sent a powerful message to any oncoming enemies of the fate which awaits them.
Crucifixion was a very public affair, criminals, rebels etc needed to be reminded of the terrible consequences of breaking Roman law, fear ruled the day.
Unlike what we see in many artists’ impressions of the crucifixion, the victim was usually stripped naked and hung naked. Historian art has most people who were crucified covered in a loincloth, but this simply isn’t true. Nakedness was often a symbol of spiritual shame and ignominy.
Death could come in hours or days, depending on exact methods, the health of those crucified, and environmental circumstances. It’s widely accepted that the typical cause of death was asphyxiation.
When the whole-body weight was supported by the stretched arms, the victim would have severe difficulty exhaling, due to hyper-expansion of the lungs.
The victim would therefore have to draw himself up by his arms or have his feet supported by tying or by a woodblock. Indeed, Roman executioners were said to break the victim’s legs, after he had hung for some time, in order to hasten his death. Once deprived of support and unable to lift himself, the victim would die within a few minutes.
The Romans often broke the prisoner’s legs to rush the death process, please note the Roman soldiers responsible for carrying out the sentence, were responsible for the victim until they died, in other words, the Romans weren’t being kind by breaking the victim’s legs, they broke the victim’s legs so that they could get on with their other duties. Burial afterwards wasn’t usually permitted.
According to history, Emperor Constantine abolished crucifixion in the Roman Empire, when Christianity became the state religion.
Even while Jesus was suffering on the cross, the people and the rulers made fun of Him and began to mock Him, Psalm 22:8 / Psalm 22:17 / Zechariah 12:10.
‘Wine vinegar’ was a jar of cheap wine, a very bitter wine called posca or sour wine commonly drunk by the Roman soldiers. This wasn’t the drugged wine usually offered to the condemned man just before the crucifixion, He had refused that, Matthew 27:33-34 / Mark 15:23. Victims often lived for many hours on the cross and so, giving Jesus a drink was an act of kindness, John 19:29.
Pilate had the sign placed above Jesus’ head in order to mock the Jews. Notice the four different accounts of what was written above Jesus’ head.
When we put the words together, we see that it would read as follows.
‘THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.’
Only in Luke’s account do we find the full conversation which went on between the two thieves and Jesus, which is worth having a look at.
On this right-handed cross, we see the figure of a dying thief. He is in pain and suffering. Yet more significant than his physical anguish is his scorn and hatred for Jesus. He said, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” Has there ever been any ‘if’ about it? That little ‘if’ has enough venom in it to destroy a soul.
What had Jesus done that so aroused this thief? Nothing that we know of. He challenged Christ to save “Yourself and us.” What impudence! What had this thief ever done that entitled him to make such a demand? Here is a thief, within the shadow of death. His sins did not bother him even as he is about to die.
How much this reminds us of those who live in sin all their lives and then when faced with death they rail at God, accusing Him of dealing harshly with them, demanding that He do something to relieve them of their situation.
This cross depicts the enmity that many have toward Jesus. It typifies clearly the unbelief of the world at large toward Jesus. Thousands have perished on this right-handed cross of rebellion ever since. Despite all that we know about Him men still reject him.
There is enough information in John’s Gospel to produce faith in Christ, which can lead to salvation, John 20:30-31. Yet men reject Him despite the evidence, John 14:6.
We have a clear choice. The only way to eternal life is through Jesus. If men rebel and reject Him then there is no hope. They are lost eternally having never been cleansed by His blood.
Again we see the figure of a dying thief. Yet instead of dying in his sin, he was dying to sin. His was a cross of repentance. This thief twists himself upon the nails to look at the centre cross, but not to scoff in unbelief, but in recognition of who Jesus was. He like the other thief would like to get his hands free, but more important to free himself from his guilt and sins.
Earlier this thief had joined with the other thief in reproaches against Christ at the beginning of the crucifixion, Matthew 27:44. But now we see in this man unfailing evidence of a great change.
As the day progresses he becomes more and more aware that this was God Himself in the person of Jesus. Notice his faith and reverence in the presence of Deity. To the other thief, he said, “Do you not even fear God?”
There follows an immediate admission of his own guilt when he said, “We receive the due reward of our deeds.” He expresses his belief that Jesus was suffering ‘wrongfully’. But “this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then there is his open confession of the Deity of Jesus. He calls him “Lord.”
Finally, we see genuine repentance and humility on the part of this dying thief. He says to Jesus, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He wanted to change and be in the Lord’s kingdom. Repentance simply explained, is a change of heart, 2 Corinthians 7:10.
Everything about this thief indicates his regret over his sins and a desire to be with the Lord.
What a difference between these two thieves! The first saw Jesus as only a man, the second saw Him as Lord. The first saw Jesus as a mock king, but the second saw Him as the “King of kings.” The first saw him as an impostor, the second saw Him as Saviour.
We can understand better now why Jesus answered him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43. Paradise is another term for heaven, both Jesus and the thief would be in heaven when they died, 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 / Revelation 2:7.
The salvation of this thief occurred while the Law of Moses was still in effect. About 50 days later Christ would set in force His new covenant, law. Today, we live under this new law, found in the New Testament, not under the Law of Moses.
The terms of salvation under this new covenant require that one believe, Hebrews 11:6, repent of his sins, Acts 17:30, confess the name of Jesus, Acts 8:37, and then be baptized for the remission of one’s sins, Acts 2:38.
Some have used this man to prove that one can be saved today without ever being baptized for the remission of sins. This is simply not the Lord’s plan for us today.
Here we have the cross of redemption. Jesus our Redeemer dying for the sins of the world. By his blood, we can be brought back to God, Ephesians 1:7. It was also a suffering cross. We cannot begin to imagine the torture of those nails driven through His hands and feet.
The victim of a Roman crucifixion literally suffered a thousand deaths. There was also the shame and reproach associated with death on a cross. It was reserved for the vilest of criminals. Added to this were all the mocking and verbal abuse from the mob.
The thieves were suffering for their own crimes, but Jesus suffered for you and me, for our sins, He had no sin, 1 Peter 2:24. Our Lord was under no obligation to pay the debt for our sins. Someone had to suffer for sin, so he was willing, 1 Peter 3:18.
Why would Christ give up the glories of heaven and come down to this sinful earth to die for our sins? Because of our utter helplessness to provide a remedy for sins, Jeremiah 10:23. Also, He came to show us the redemptive love of God for sinful man, 1 John 4:9-10.
Why was it that He alone was the only one who could die for our sins? First, because he was spotless and able to provide the perfect sacrifice, 1 Peter 1:19. Second, it was because God, the Eternal Father, appointed Him for this work, Philippians. 2:6-8 / 1 Peter 1:20.
To this middle cross each sinner today must look for salvation. There is no other way. Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us of our sins.
Paradise is a Persian word for ‘an area enclosed by a wall’ or ‘garden.’ Nehemiah 2:8 / Ecclesiastes 2:5 / Song of Solomon l 4:13. The Greek word, ‘paradeisos’ is used for the garden in Eden in Genesis, Genesis 2:8-16 / Isaiah 51:3 / Ezekiel 28:13.
The New Testament understands paradise in terms of its Jewish heritage. In Luke 23:43 Jesus promises the penitent thief, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’ The intermediate state was transformed by Jesus’ emphasis on being with him ‘today.’
There’s no denying where Jesus was going, He was going to ‘paradise’. No longer is paradise just an anticipatory condition awaiting the messianic presence at the end of the age. Those who die in faith will ‘be with Christ’, Philippians 1:23.
And Jesus promised the thief that he would be with Him in paradise that day, not weeks, months or years from now but that day, ‘today, you will be with me’.
I think it would be useful to look at what the Bible says about heaven first. Genesis 1:1 ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’.
The Bible tells us there are three heavens. Speaking about himself, the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:2 ‘I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago, was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.’
So, we have here three ‘heavens’.
1. The heaven which is God’s spiritual eternal home. This isn’t physical and isn’t created.
2. The heaven where the stars and planets are. This is physical and is created.
3. The heaven surrounding the earth where the atmosphere is, and the birds fly. This is physical and is created.
The word ‘heavens’ is used in different ways in the Bible.
1. It’s used of the two heavens that God created.
2. It’s also used of the third heaven. This is the uncreated heaven where God has always been from eternity.
The heaven where God has always lived isn’t physical, it hasn’t been created. ‘God is spirit’, John 4:24. He doesn’t need a physical place to live in. He doesn’t need pictures or images or temples or mosques or churches or shrines to live in, Acts 17:24-25.
Remember the rich man and Lazarus! Luke 16:19-22. Note the term, ‘Abraham’s side’, this is a Hebraism that the Jews understood to mean, ‘the paradise of God’.
So, clearly, once again the Bible teaches us that Lazarus was in ‘paradise’. It’s a figurative phrase that appears to have been drawn from a popular belief that the righteous would rest by Abraham’s side in the world to come, an opinion described in Jewish literature at the time of Christ.
The word ‘bosom’ or ‘side’ is ‘kolpos’ and literally refers to the side or lap of a person. Figuratively, as in this case, it refers to a place of honour reserved for a special guest, similar to its usage in John 13:23 ‘One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.’
In the case of Lazarus, the reserved place is special because it’s beside Abraham, the father of all the righteous. The phrase may be synonymous with the paradise promised to the thief on the cross, Luke 23:43. Together these passages support the conviction that a believer enjoys immediate bliss at the moment of physical death.
According to Revelation 2:7, the overcoming church will eat from the tree of life in the eschatological garden. Sin and death through redemption are now cast out of the human experience. The way is open for the faithful to return to the garden of God. Paradise is the Christian’s final home.
Look at what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4. Notice that Paul says he was caught up to the ‘third heaven’, whilst in the same setting says, caught up to ‘paradise’. Surely, the phrases ‘caught up to the third heaven’ and ‘caught up to paradise’ mean the same thing! Surely, the ‘third heaven’ and ‘paradise’ are one in the same place!
The ‘third heaven’, or ‘paradise’ is God’s spiritual eternal home, which isn’t physical and isn’t created, this is the place where not only Paul found himself, but the place where Lazarus found himself when he died, the place where Jesus and the thief on the cross went to that day, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise,’ and the place where God was before the other heavens were created and where He resides now and forever and the Christians final home.
Jesus’ final hours on the cross lasted from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., a period of about six hours, Matthew 27:41-43. Answering the question of how long Jesus was on the cross is complicated by the fact that two systems of marking time are used in the Gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke use the Jewish system of marking time.
John uses the Roman System. Using the Jewish system, Mark says, ‘They crucified Him and divided His garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified Him’. Mark 15:24-25
According to this, Christ’s crucifixion began at 9:00 a.m. Also, using the Jewish system of marking time, Matthew says that ‘from the sixth hour there was darkness over the land until the ninth hour.’ Matthew 27:45. That is, the darkness lasted from 12 noon to 3 p.m. These were Jesus’ final hours on the cross.
The curtain of the temple tore from top to bottom, signifying that God was behind this. The curtain of the temple divided the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place, Exodus 26:31-33.
Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.
‘The meaning of the veil and its tearing is extensive.’
1. Its three colours, blue, purple, and scarlet, Exodus 26:81, symbolize the nature of Christ, blue standing for his heavenly nature, the scarlet for his earthly nature, and the comingled blue and scarlet, purple, standing for the perfect two natures in one, Immanuel.
2. The ancient worshiper, in the person of the high priest, went through the veil to the Holy of Holies, the present-day worship has access through Christ into heaven, Hebrews 10:19.
3. It symbolizes his death on Calvary. As the veil was rent, Christ’s body was torn for the sins of the whole world.
4. The tearing also means the removal of obstructions between the worshiper and his God.
No longer is there a veil. When some ecclesiastic would seek to put it upon again and hide himself behind it to hear confession or grant absolution, tear it down and trample upon it. God himself removed it. Christ’s followers have boldness, freedom, and ‘access’, Ephesians 2:18 / Ephesians 3:12.
5. The torn veil means that the Old Testament can now be understood in the light of the New.
Out of Christ, the Old Testament is a mystery, in him, it is gloriously understood, 2 Corinthians 3:14-16. Christ is thus the true ‘key to the Scriptures.’ Accept no other.
6. The rending meant that Christ has conquered death, the fear of it now, the fact of it ultimately, Isaiah 25:7-8.
This figure also makes the veil a symbol of death, which of course it is, The ‘place’ it occupied makes that certain. Squarely between the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies, it corresponds to death which lies between the church and heaven and all who enter heaven shall pass through the veil of death, or be ‘changed’ which is equivalent to it. Christ vents the veil of death in two ways, a. by passing through it unharmed, and b. by destroying it for his children.
7. The torn veil abolished the office of the earthly high priest.
The line of demarcation between lesser priests and the high priest was removed by God’s hand. The office of the high priest on earth was no longer needed, nor is it now. All functions held and performed by earthly high priests, for a season, have now been taken over by the true high priest, Christ, Hebrews 9:11.
He is the ONLY mediator, 1 Timothy 2:5-6. There can be no use, then, for daily sacrifice, whether of the mass or anything else. True sacrifice has already been offered once and for all in heaven. Christ offered himself ONCE, the Greek term ‘hapax’ means ‘once’ without repetition, Hebrews 9:23-28 / Hebrews 7:27.
All Christians are ‘priests’, 1 Peter 2:9 / Revelation 5:10. Since the only true high priest is in heaven, and all God’s children are now priests, every human being who moves into a position between one of the Lord’s children, priests, and tries to be something of a higher priest to grant absolution or perform other mediatorial functions is merely trying to patch up that old veil. But God has torn it down.’
This was the final of the Seven Words from the cross. The three utterances given by Luke are omitted in the other Gospels, just as Luke omitted the utterances they included.
All seven of these utterances of Jesus are authentic, historical words truly spoken by the world’s Saviour while upon the cross.
When He had accomplished all that was predetermined before the creation of the world in relation to the salvation of man, He gave up His spirit into the hands of the Father. The first part of the plan of redemption was accomplished.
Jesus died with a prayer on his lips. ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ That is Psalm 31:5 with one word added, Father. ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.’ That verse was the prayer every Jewish mother taught her child to say the last thing at night.
Just as we were taught, maybe, to say, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep,’ so the Jewish mother taught her child to say, before the threatening dark came down, ‘Into your hands, I commit my spirit.’
Jesus made it even more intimate, for he began it with the word Father. Even on the cross, Jesus died like a child falling asleep in his father’s arms.
1. A Word of Intimacy.
It was also a moment of intimacy. The two belong together, trust nurtured by intimacy; intimacy nurtured by trust. The intimate word Jesus added to the words of David was Father. ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ David cried out to his God, ‘O Lord,’ he would say, ‘You are My God.’
In David’s time, such language was radical. The Psalms of David personalises the spiritual life in a way that earlier biblical literature did not. But Jesus took it even further. He consistently spoke of and to his Father. And to his disciples, he said, ‘When you pray, say, ‘Our Father’.
This language of intimate conversations with his Father he shared with his followers. He prays to the Father as he has done throughout his ministry. For Jesus, death is no out of control enemy. No matter how bleak the moment, he knows his Father is present with him, now present to receive his spirit.
2. A Word of Trust.
Second, Jesus entrusts himself to his Father. In Psalm 31:5 the word ‘commit’ is the Hebrew verb ‘paqad’. The corresponding Greek word means to entrust to someone for safekeeping, give over, entrust, commend, As He lets go of this life, Jesus trusts his eternal destiny to the Father’s everlasting arms.
3. A Word of Surrender.
Finally, Jesus speaks a word of surrender. He gives up His human life to his Father who gave it to Him 33 years before. The word ‘spirit’ is the common word ‘pneuma’, which means breathing, breath of life.
It can refer to the Holy Spirit, but here refers to the personal spirit of Jesus, part of the human personality, Hebrews 4:12 / 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
He gave up his life as a voluntary sacrifice. The loud voice just mentioned was significant. The loud voice shows that Jesus did not die of exhaustion.
If death had come from exhaustion, his vocal cords would not have functioned at all. Jesus’ death was conscious and voluntary, fulfilling his prophecy recorded in John 10:17-18.
Jesus prays his final prayer with this kind of equanimity and peace because He knows the Father, and knows that there is life with the Father beyond death. As a devout Jew, He has prayed these words as part of an evening prayer all His life.
Now at the end of His life, He prays them one last time and lets go of human life in order to embrace the Life that the Father has to offer in His own presence.
Death had no legitimate power over the sinless son of God, Philippians 1:20-23.
Once again we have a Gentile centurion who appears to know more about Christ than the Jewish religious leaders of the day.
Henry, in his commentary, says the following.
‘The centurion who commanded the guard. This testimony amounts to the same as ‘Truly this man was the Son of God’, for if Jesus was a righteous man, he said very truly when he said he was the Son of God and therefore that testimony of Jesus concerning himself must be admitted, for, if it were false, he was not a righteous man.’
Luke records that the centurion says that Jesus was a righteous man but Mathew, Matthew 27:54, and Mark, Mark 15:39, record the centurion as saying that Jesus was the Son of God.
Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.
‘From Matthew’s account it is clear that the words, ‘Truly this was the Son of God,’ were not spoken by the centurion only, ‘they that were with him’ also being subjects of the verb ‘saying’. Thus there were multiple speakers, and this necessarily means that there were multiple sayings also. The most astounding physical wonders ever known on earth were occurring. The miracles of the loud voice and it was that, was precisely the act that prompted the centurion’s utterance that ‘Truly this man was the Son of God’, as plainly stated in Mark’s account. Note that it was when the centurion saw that Jesus so gave up the ghost, that he recognized Jesus as the divine Son of God.’
When everyone saw what had happened, that is when they witnessed the earthquake, the graves opening up and the darkness over the whole earth, Matthew 27:51-53, they all beat their breast because they knew that an innocent man had just been crucified.
By the time Jesus went to the cross, multitudes of people from all over Palestine, knew Him, including the woman who had followed Him from Galilee.
It was these people who stood at a distance watching the events happen, Psalm 38:11. These were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, Luke 24:10. To these three, Mark, in Mark 16:1, adds, Salome but some think that this was only a surname of one of these Marys.
Joseph, Mark 15:43 / Luke 23:50-51 / John 19:38, a prominent Jewish official and a secret disciple of Christ, John 19:38, asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ body, He must have been a very important person because not anyone could go and speak to Pilate.
He had to act quickly since according to Jewish law He couldn’t bury the body on the Sabbath day, which officially began at sundown, Mark 15:42.
It’s also worth noting that the Romans didn’t take the criminals down from the cross, they left them there to rot, to act as a warning to anyone who walked by if they broke the Romans’ laws and the soldiers at the cross couldn’t leave to go home until the criminals were officially dead, hence why they drove a spear in Jesus’ side and didn’t need to break any of His bones, John 19:31-37.
Pilate was surprised that Jesus died so quickly, Mark 15:44-45. Not one bone in His body was broken, Matthew 27:57-61 / Exodus 12:46 / Numbers 9:12 / Deuteronomy 21:22-23 / Psalm 34:20 / Zechariah 12:10. Nicodemus, John 3:1, joined Joseph in preparing the customary burial of the body of Jesus, John 19:39.
Being able to remove Jesus from the cross was a huge privilege for Joseph. He gathered the corpse up in a sheet and put it in a hole chiselled into the wall of a cave, which served as a typical grave in that era.
He closed off the cave by rolling a large rock over the entrance. This was Joseph’s own tomb, in his own garden which tells us he must have been wealthy too.
Nicodemus joined him for His burial, John 19:38-42, he too was a member of the Sanhedrin, and a believer, John 3:1-2 / John 7:50.
‘Myrrh’ was a gum resin used as a perfume and embalming fluid, ‘alces’, pounded wood of the aloe tree, also used for embalming, Psalm 45:8 / Proverbs 7:17 / Matthew 2:11. A hundred pounds weight, 100 litras, one letra being equal to 12 ounces, John 12:3-5 indicates that Nicodemus was a rich man also, the amount brought suggests that they intended to completely cover the corpse with spices.
In keeping with the law of Moses, they had rested on the Sabbath but will return to complete the burial rites of the Saviour which they had begun on the day of His death, Matthew 28:5-6.