The crucifixion of Jesus

Scripture Reading

And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

Matt. 27:35

Please note this Bible study deals with a subject of graphic nature, readers are cautioned over the content.

Prelude to the crucifixion

It is highly recommended to read the previous Bible study on the mock trials of Jesus as a prelude to this study since it will help to provide a better backdrop to the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. For this study, all four gospel accounts are referenced and harmonized together, adding further context to the events that took place. Some things to keep in mind are that Jesus underwent multiple mock trials before Annas, Caiphas the high priest, Pontius Pilate the governor, Herod and in the presence of the chief priests, scribes, and elders of the Jews. The end of the process resulted in Pilate succumbing to the pressure of the religious leaders and wanting to be a people pleaser instead of sticking to his principles. After all, it was Pilate who declared that he found no fault in Jesus on three different occasions during the mock trials of Jesus. But as history would have it and so that the scriptures might be fulfilled, Pilate released Jesus over to them to be crucified.

And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

John 18:38-29

Punitive punishment

With that brief recap of the circumstances in place, far worse consequences were awaiting Jesus now that he had been sentenced to death despite there being no formal conviction of a crime from any ruling or governing body. Recall that Pilate knew full well the chief priests were acting out of envy against Jesus. But now a most disturbing event takes place given that Jesus was within a few hours of his death from crucifixion on the cross. Pilate releases Jesus into the hands of the guards, he is taken away into a hall called the Praetorium and there he is scourged. Now this seems to be incredibly punitive given that Jesus was not guilty of anything nor was he found to have fault in him. Scourging was a form of punishment inflicted upon someone with a whip. More so, these whips contained attachments woven into them likely composed of metal spikes, bone fragments, or steel balls. The entire objective was to lacerate the skin off someone’s back almost to the point of death. To think that Jesus would shortly be nailed hand and foot to a wooden cross, the act of scourging him before this event is horrifically punitive towards him.

The guards then take things a step further considering Jesus may have been on the verge of losing consciousness after the scourging he received. They nevertheless, stripped Jesus of his clothes and mockingly put on him a scarlet robe, then planted a no doubt very painful crown of thorns on his head given that he was labeled the king of the Jews. Following this, they mock worshiped him, bowed their knees before him and sneered as they called out, Hail, king of the Jews. To add insult to injury, they spit on him and hit his head with a reed. When this entire travesty and charade was over they stripped off the robe and put back his own clothes on him. It was now time to take the march to the place called in the Hebrew, Golgotha or fittingly called, the place of a skull.

What is crucifixion?

It is interesting to note that all four gospel accounts provide very little detail about the actual process of crucifixion. History indeed documents what is involved with the use of spikes and a hammer to affix a human body onto two wooden beams in the shape of a cross. Both hands and both feet were pierced with spikes driven mercilessly through skin, bones, flesh and into the wooden beams. In most cases, and despite the intense pain and agony from being impaled in this manner, most victims died slow excruciating deaths from asphyxiation as their body weakened and slumped down, unable to support themselves any longer on the cross. For some, such as the two thieves crucified with Jesus, their death did not come quick enough and therefore the soldiers broke their legs to hasten the process. This was indeed a most grisly and gruesome way to end a person’s life and to think that Jesus even declined taking a vinegar drink mixed with gall when it was offered to him presumably intended to mitigate the pain inflicted upon him.

Prophetic writings fulfilled

As he was mounted upon the cross awaiting his eventual death many other notable events transpired. “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.” [John 19:23-24] Notice how the gospel account authors made notation of how several prophetic writings in the scriptures were fulfilled during this time, despite being written centuries before this event.

Many well known individuals were standing by the cross during the crucifixion of Jesus. “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!”  [John 19:25-26] This was such a parting act of love and compassion upon the mother of Jesus, who presumably was widowed at this time since Joseph was not recorded in the scriptures during these events. Jesus in an act of love and charity, orchestrated the care of his mother through the apostle John, since he was described in the scriptures as the apostle whom Jesus loved.

The king of the Jews

Another notable event that occurred during the crucifixion of Jesus was the sign placed at the top of the cross that was authorized by the governor, Pontius Pilate. The Inscription said, Jesus the king of the Jews, and it was written in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin clearly making it understandable for all people in attendance. John adds that this was much to the consternation of the chief priests but Pilate still had his last day with the matter as shown in this passage of scripture, “Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.” [John 19:22]

Perhaps this was the reason why the chief priests, scribes and elders mocked Jesus even further when they said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” [Matt. 27:42-44] Additional comments from Mark add a notable element to their mockery, “Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” [Mark 15:32]  One cannot help but think of Paul’s writings to the early church in Rome when he said, “For the Jews require a sign…” [1 Cor. 1:22a]

And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS

Luke 23:38

The two thieves

Even the two thieves mocked Jesus and taunted him over the claim of being the king of the Jews. Given the sheer fact that he was crucified among common thieves and malefactors, this also was in fulfillment of the scriptures, “And he was numbered with the transgressors.” [Mark 15:28] But then, there was a turn of events between the two thieves ultimately determining their eternal fate before the Lord of glory, “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” [Luke 23:39-43] To think that all of us are just a few words away from determining our eternal fate on whether we believe in Jesus, or reject him. (John 12:48}

Compassion of Jesus

 Yet despite all of the pain, punishment and debasing treatment imposed upon Jesus, his compassion still came through for the people before him, including his enemies and assailants, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  [Luke 23:34] With this, the crucifixion of Jesus begins to draw to its eventual conclusion and this is marked by a sudden darkness all over the land from the sixth to the ninth hour. From the ancient scriptures, the sixth hour was always at noon time and yet here it was covered in a cloak of darkness! As this took place, Jesus cried out , “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” [Matt. 27:46] It was at this time, that someone ran to him with another sponge filled with vinegar and as the scriptures record, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” [John 19:30] The apostle Luke adds an interesting point upon this scene further documenting the words of Jesus, “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” [Luke 23:46]

Witnessing the events

Now picture yourself at the foot of the cross as a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus. The scriptures document how the world went into darkness for three hours. The scriptures also document how there was an earthquake during the same time. The scriptures record how the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom, figuratively ending the Old Testament or old covenant, for the new one was about to come into reality. To add more astonishment to this scene it is noted in the scriptures, “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” [Matt. 27:52] Finally, when there was some doubt as to whether Jesus was dead on the cross or perhaps it was yet another punitive punishment by the soldiers, “…one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” [John 19:34]

The Son of God

There is little wonder why after being eye witness to all of these circumstances a Roman military leader’s remarkable conclusion is noted in this verse, “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” {Matt. 27:54] Luke adds that the centurion declared that this was certainly a righteous man and people around him beat their breasts and returned home (Luke 23:47-48) From all these events, John the beloved disciple of Jesus stated in his gospel account, “And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.  For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.” [John 19:35-36]

Truly this man was the Son of God.

Mark 15:39b

Let us conclude this Bible study on the crucifixion of Jesus by recapping some thoughts and perceptions. The hypocritical religious leaders finally had their way with Jesus by putting him to death. Noting early on in the gospel records, this was their initial intent all along, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” [John 5:18] They were envious, they had been humiliated by Jesus time and time again (Matt. 23). They felt threatened by his ability to silence all of their arguments and accusations against him. They sought to blaspheme his name (Matt. 12:24) by claiming his power came from the prince of devils.

Yes, they had their way with him but unbeknownst to them, this was all in fulfillment of the scriptures. As Paul wrote, the events of the crucifixion of Jesus were all according to the scriptures, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” [1 Cor. 15:3-4]

God’s saving grace

Dear readers, this is the gospel message of salvation. Salvation means to be saved from the penalty for your sins. Jesus took your sins upon the cross as the only perfect sinless sacrifice that could ever be offered. We are not saved by human will, effort or good deeds and works, we are saved by believing in what Jesus did for us on the cross. He paid the penalty for your sins and mine. He was the only one who could atone for sins because he knew no sin in himself (2 Cor. 5:21).

In the Old Testament, the sacrificial offerings by the ancient priests involved the shedding of blood from unblemished animals but this was nothing more than temporal measures pointing to the ultimate sacrifice. This is why Jesus’s last words on the cross were so notable when he said, “It is finished.” It was and it is finished. This was summarized by Jesus when he said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] Will you at this time believe and place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Why not make this decision today as the thief on the cross did with the promise of eternal life in Christ that can be yours forever!

Bible Study Questions

  1. In this Bible study on the crucifixion of Jesus, who really caused the sentencing of Jesus to be crucified, Pharisees, Jews, Herod, or Pontius Pilate? Hint John 19:16.
  2. Since the scriptures do not explicitly explain it, why do you think Jesus was scourged prior to his crucifixion?
  3. What does the awareness of the excruciating suffering of Jesus from crucifixion mean to you knowing it was the penalty for your sins?
  4. With the two thieves, why do you think people will never make a decision to believe in Jesus as their saviour?
  5. Knowing that many centuries old prophecies were fulfilled during the crucifixion, what does this mean for your faith?
  6. Why do you think the Jews and religious leaders were able to influence the governor Pontius Pilate to act according to their will?
  7. if you made a decision to believe and place your faith in Jesus will you share this Bible study with someone you love?

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