In the last part we walked though the last week of Jesus’ life. Today we’re only looking at Friday, or Good Friday as we call it today. What was the political structure and who were the key players? Why did people welcome him as a king on Palm Sunday and seemingly turn on him just a few days later? Who was present at the cross? What supernatural events took place when he died? How many prophesies did Jesus fulfill? And why do I need saved?
- Part 1 | CHILDHOOD: Who is Jesus?
- Part 2 | MINISTRY: Who were Jesus’ disciples?
- Part 3 | MINISTRY: What did Jesus teach?
- Part 4 | MINISTRY: Why did Jesus perform miracles?
- Part 5 | ARREST: What happened in the last days of Jesus’ life?
- Part 6 | DEATH: Why did Jesus die on the cross?
- Part 7 | RETURN: What happened after Jesus died and when is he coming back?
- Part 8 | I saw Jesus in a dream
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As I researched all of these questions, I was overwhelmed by the details, the layers that go deeper and deeper. Everything is connected with meaning, symbolism, history and purpose. The more I study, the more I understand how very ignorant I am. I’ll offer my disclaimer once again: I strive for accuracy and write with caution, but my answers are human and therefore unstable. It is important to read or listen to the Bible for yourself to acquire truth and wisdom from God.
And on a second note, it’s easy to get caught up in the details — even argue about them. I’ve got a few “maybes” in this post, some educated speculation by experts on things like geology, dimensions, locations. These are to help bring the text to life, to help us understand what Jesus endured and experienced, but most definitely not to spark debate, only curiosity. And I took the approach to present the theories, not claim one or the other as fact, as they are not integral to our salvation.
What was the political structure in Jesus’ time?
Israel had a two-tier system with both Roman leaders and Jewish leaders.
Israel was a Roman province at this time with Tiberius Caesar as its emperor. The local governor or prefect was Pontius Pilate. The Roman army was known for their weighty armor and shield tactics. They would use oversized shields in unison as a massive blockade to continue advancement in war.
This Jewish system is more complicated due to many smaller, local systems and religious sects, so I’ll stick with the key players here:
Herod Antipas: We have the Jewish “client king,” Herod Antipas, who is Jewish but still an ally of Rome. Antipas beheaded John the Baptist for criticizing his marriage to his brother’s wife. His territory is in Galilee, as he inherited one-fourth of this father Herod the Great’s kingdom. His father was the one who tried to have Jesus killed as a baby when the wisemen left. (It’s helpful to keep in mind that Herod is a family name, so there are various Herod’s in the Bible.)
Next we have the religious groups — the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Scribes, the Essenes and the Zealots. The scribes did what their name suggests — copying scripture. The Essenes were characterized by asceticism (something like self-denial), celibacy, and joint holding of property. And the Zealots were in favor of overturning the Roman government. The two with the most power, however, were the Pharisees and Sadducees.
According to Study.com, “Biblical scholars estimate that there were about 6,000 Pharisees, 4,000 Essenes, and substantially fewer Sadducees. At the time of Jesus, there were approximately 4 million people living in Palestine.”
Pharisees: Pharisees gave equal weight to oral tradition and scripture. They believed in a spiritual realm, resurrection and an afterlife. They were more representative of the working class.
Sadducees: Sadducees gave weight only to written scripture. They did not believe in a spiritual world or afterlife. They were mostly wealthy and aristocratic men and friendlier with Rome than the Pharisees.
Sanhedrin: The Sanhedrin comprised of a 70-member supreme court including Sadducees and Pharisees, but the Sadducees held the positions of high priest and chief priests. Caiphus was the high priest at this time.2 They were not allowed to put anyone to death. The group ceased to exist after the temple was destroyed in 70 AD.3
Who killed Jesus?
There are quite a few players here and all of them want to pass the buck onto someone else.
The 6 trials of Jesus took place in less than 12 hours:
1.Annas: After Jesus was arrested in the garden, he was taken to the the house of Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law to the current high-priest (John 18:12), who agrees to proceed.
2. Caiphus: He sends him to the house of Caiphus. It was early morning. He was outraged when Jesus finally agrees that he is God’s chosen one and declares blasphemy.
3. Sanhedrin: The council had gathered and “were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward” (Matthew 26:59-60). Nonetheless, they agree he must be put to death. The Jewish guards spit on him, mocked him and beat him.
4. Pontious Pilate: They took him to Roman prefect, Pontious Pilate, at the governor’s headquarters — because, remember, the Jewish council cannot put anyone to death. They use the vantage point with Pilate that Jesus is a threat to Caesar because Pilate’s job is to keep the peace at all cost. But Pilate finds no fault in Jesus. He hears that he is a Galilean, so he takes the opportunity to sidestep the matter and sends him to Herod Antipas, as that is his jurisdiction.
5. Herod Antipas: Herod actually wanted to meet this Jesus he had heard so much about, in hopes he would perform miracles. There were no miracles and Jesus made no answer. Herod found no fault in him. Herod’s soldiers beat him and mocked him, even sent him back to Pilate in “splendid” clothing.
6. Pontious Pilate: Pilate had Jesus flogged and examine him one more time. Pilate tells the chief priests he nor Herod found fault in him and he would punish him and release him, but they demanded his crucifixion. He looked for one more opportunity to release Jesus. Each year the governor would release one prisoner dictated by the crowd. This crowd though had been stirred up by the priests and declared they wanted Barabas, a robber and murder, released instead of Jesus. Pilate relented and ordered the crucifixion.
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
If we look at this from a legal standpoint: Jesus’ expedited trial was at night, he was abused, false witness was admitted, he had no defense and he was guilty until proven innocent.
So the guilty one was given life when he deserved death. Jesus took his place, the same as he has done for you and for me.
But to answer the original question — who killed Jesus? — it wasn’t religious leaders or the Romans or the citizens shouting for his crucifixion. It was God himself. This was his rescue plan from the beginning.
And Jesus didn’t have to stay on the cross. He says in Matthew 26:53 he can call on legions of angels. Every Easter I ask the four year olds in the Sunday school class my husband and I teach, “What held Jesus up on the cross? Was it nails or was it love?”
In John 10:18 Jesus says, “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.”
Why did people welcome Jesus as king and then want him crucified?
There are several factors at play here. First, the followers on road with Jesus Palm Sunday would have been from Bethany and Galiee, traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover. They would have heard about Lazarus’ resurrection and Jesus’ many miracles. The excitement of a coming Messiah would have been in the air! Were they even part of the crowd calling for his crucifixion? We don’t know how large this crowd was or who comprised it.
If they were present, that fickle excitement might have wained as they saw Jesus arrested, seemingly powerless with bruises and swollen face from beatings. This wasn’t the Messiah who fit in their box of expectations. They might have also feared the zealous religious leaders. And the high priests were stirring up the crowd against him.
Why did Pilate put a sign saying “King of the Jews” on Jesus’ cross?
After Jesus was sentenced to death he was forced to carry his cross to the crucifixion site. Consider at this point, he hadn’t slept all night. He was beaten at Annas’ house. He was beaten at Caiphus’ house. He was beaten at Herod’s Palace. And he had been flogged by Pilate’s soldiers.
16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
It could be Pilate was being passive aggressive to the Jewish leaders after forcing his hand to execute Jesus. It could be that his two conversations with Jesus and his wife’s dream led him to believe Jesus was special. He consistently calls him “King of the Jews.”
Where was Jesus crucified?
Jesus died on a hill called Golgotha just outside the city walls, which means “place of the skull” in Aramaic. Calvary is the Latin phrase for Golgotha. So they refer to the same hill.
How far did Jesus carry the cross?
Jesus carried the cross from Pilate’s praetorium (or headquarters) to Golgotha. The problem is scholars don’t agree on where the praetorium was located when Pilate stayed in Jerusalem. (His main headquarters were north in Caesarea.). Some think it was at the Antonia Fortress near the temple and others believe it was in part of Herod’s Palace.
Pilgrims have come to Jerusalem for hundreds of years to walk the Via Dolorosa (or Stations of the Cross), which represents the path from the Antonia Fortress, north of the temple on the east side of the city — though the path has changed a few times depending on politics. Newer evidence, however, seems to suggest that Pilate’s praetorium was more likely in Herod’s temple.4
Either way, Jesus would have carried the cross at least half a mile.
I’ve read various accounts on how long it would have taken Jesus to get to the crucifixion site from people actually walking the route from Herod’s Palace to Golgotha at normal speed in 40 minutes. So we can guess it took Jesus longer — possibly an hour to an hour and half. Also, remember he was walking uphill.
How heavy was the cross?
I searched and searched for possible dimensions and weight of the cross, but as most wood from 2,000 years ago has disintegrated, artifacts are rare. The only research I found was by French architect Charles Rohault de Fleury in 1870. He studied fragments of a cross brought to Europe from Jerusalem by Constantine’s in 326 AD.
Rohault determined from the pieces that the cross could have been 165 pounds, 3 or 4 meters high and 2 meters across.1
Whatever the dimensions and weight, it must have been significant enough to stand off the ground, support the weight of a man and not topple over. Simon of Cyrene had to help him carry the cross on the way it was so heavy.
Who were the thieves on the cross with Jesus?
There were two theives on either side of Jesus being crucified as well. We don’t know exactly what they did, but one of them became a believer in Jesus.
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Philip Yancey says in his book The Jesus I Never Knew: “In a sense, the paired thieves present the choice that all history has had to decide about the cross. Do we look at Jesus’ powerlessness as an example of God’s impotence or as proof of God’s love?”
Let’s take a little timeout from questions and read a passage to get a bigger picture of the sequence events before we break them down. There are different details in each gospel that we can sprinkle in later, but for now let’s read from Matthew 27:
32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
The Death of Jesus
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
It’s a painful story to read.
Unfortunately for me — and maybe you — reading the text slowly and narrowing in the details only gives me more questions. People came back to life in tombs when he died!? James and John’s mom (mother of the sons Zebedee) was there and they weren’t? Ok, we have to keep going.
How was Jesus nailed to the cross?
You’ve probably heard these debates before — nails in the wrists or the hands? One nail for both feet or two? The answer is we don’t know. But GotQuestions.org has an interesting point about the Greek word for hands:
While historical scholars are uncertain of the nail placement in Jesus’ crucifixion, or anyone else’s for that matter, the Bible simply says that Jesus had wounds in His hands (John 20:25-27). The Greek word translated ‘hands’ is cheir, which means literally ‘hands.’ There is no Greek word for ‘wrists’ in the New Testament, even though some versions translate Acts 12:7 to say that the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. But the Greek word in this verse is also cheir.”
The important part here is that by his wounds we are healed.
Who was present at the cross?
Here are the people the four gospels mention:
- Passers-by, mocking him (Matthew 27:29)
- Simon from Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry the cross (Matthew 27:32)
- A great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him (Luke 23:26)
- Soldiers, mocking him and rolling dice for his clothes (Matthew 27:35)
- Chief priests, with the scribes and elders, heckling him (Matthew 27:41)
- His mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25)
- Mary the mother of James and John (Matthew 27:56)
- John, comforting Mary the mother of Jesus (John 19:26)
- Many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem (Luke 15:41)
It is unclear where the other disciples besides John were. Matthew 26:56 says after his arrest, “Then all the disciples left him and fled.”
What did Jesus say on the cross?
|Jesus’ words on the cross||Matthew||Mark||Luke||John|
|Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.||23:34|
|Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.||23:43|
|Woman, behold, your son! Behold, your mother!||19:26–27|
|My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?||27:46||15:34|
|It is finished.||19:30|
|Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!||23:46|
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Luke 23 tells us what is happening as Jesus says these words.
And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
Even in horrific physical, emotional and spiritual suffering, he desires forgiveness for them.
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.“
The criminal who believed in Jesus is assured he will see Heaven that very day. And the same is true for us when we believe and accept Jesus. We will be ushered into Heaven and see Jesus that very day when our time comes.
“Woman, behold, your son! Behold, your mother!”
As we talked about in Part 1, Joseph may have died at this point, so Jesus is asking John to care for his mother. (Why not his brothers I’m not sure! But we can only do so many questions, right?) John says, “And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” John 19:27
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Here is our hero — beaten, mangled, nailed to a cross, dripping in blood, gasping for air, persecuted unfairly by government, betrayed by friends and followers — and now for the first time in eternity he was separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit.
He is referencing Psalm 22:1-2:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
God left him in that moment and took all man’s punishment and put it on his shoulders. Jesus experienced the undeserved wrath from his dear Abba even though he had done no wrong. We see Jesus deep in emotion many times, we can picture him as a human. But what about the Father? How must it have felt to turn away from his beloved boy?
Could you imagine sending your son to die for people who despised him, spit on him, mocked him, beat him to the point of death? This is how much our God loves us, that he would send his only son to cover our sins.
Jesus is offered sour vinegar wine, but refuses because it was made with gall (a crude anesthetic) which would provide some pain relief (Matthew 27:34). He wanted to be sober-minded and purposeful until the end of his mission. The second time he is offered wine is after he says “I thirst” and is given vinegar wine by the way of a hyssop branch (John 19:28-30). A hyssop branch was also used to paint the lamb’s blood over the Hebrew doorsteps during the first passover.
He fulfilled the prophesy in Psalm 69
You know my reproach,
and my shame and my dishonor;
my foes are all known to you.
20 Reproaches have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none,
and for comforters, but I found none.
21 They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.
“It is finished.”
The apostle John used the Greek word “tetelestai,” which is translated “it is finished.” Interestingly it was “also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times indicating that a bill had been paid in full.” Bible.org
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
Jesus is referencing Psalm 31, most likely written and prophesied by David when he was fleeing from Saul:
For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
4 you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
He is returning to the Father, his refuge and redeemer.
What supernatural events took place when Jesus died on the cross?
Darkened sky from 12 to 3pm: The darkness symbolized judgement — God pouring down judgement on the unblemished lamb for the sake of humanity. Remember that the ninth plague God sent the defiant pharaoh was three days of darkness and then the final plague was the killing of the firstborn sons.
Curtain torn from top to bottom: I don’t want to get complicated, but as I researched I learned there were actually two curtains in the temple at this time: one that could be seen from outside (even by Gentiles) and one that separated the Holy of Holies (the dwelling place of God) from the rest of the temple. No one was allowed inside except one priest once a year.6 Both were up to four inches thick and over 60 feet high! It is unclear which of the curtains was torn. Was it the outer curtain everyone (Jew and Gentile) was able to see, or the inner which only the Jewish men would be able to see? Either way, Jesus has torn down the barrier between us and God, from top to bottom, from Heaven to Earth, so we may all be in the presence of the Lord.
One more comparison, because I guess I do like complicated. It is my understanding that the curtain torn in the temple was seamless. We are told that Jesus’ tunic was also seamless. This would have taken a skilled seamstress to weave and it would have been done top to bottom.
Earthquake and rocks split: An earthquake represents the presence of the Lord (Judges 5:4 ; 2 Sam 22:8 ; Psalms 77:18; 97:4; 104:32).7 Earthquakes are common in Judea due to tectonic plate shifts located there. In 2011 geologists found sediment evidence from the Dead Sea evidence of an earthquake occurring during the timeframe of Jesus’ crucifixion.8 There are historian accounts of an earthquake during this time as well, namely by Josephus.
Saints resurrected and coming out of tombs: The tombs could have been opened by the earthquake. This miracle authenticated Jesus once again as the Savior who would raise the dead to eternal life. The people went into the city to tell others so they might believe. What might have all those who rejected him thought then?! 1 Thessalonians 4:14 says, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
Why was it so brutal?
C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Letters to Malcom, “Roman Emperor Constantine banned crucifixion as a method of execution in the fourth century due to its inhumanity. Jesus died in one day, but it wasn’t uncommon for people to last days. It wasn’t until after this ban that it became a symbol of faith or appear in art — because everyone who had witnessed the horror of a real crucifixion was dead.”
Up until Jesus’ death, God required a prescribed sacrifice from his people laid out in detail in Leviticus. It was a bloody, bloody affair. Remember, blood means life. Blood is what separates us from the spiritual world.
12 After Aaron had killed the ram that was sacrificed to please the Lord, Aaron’s sons brought him the blood, and he splattered it against all four sides of the altar. 13 They brought him each piece of the animal, including the head, and he burned them all on the altar. 14 He washed the insides and the hind legs and also sent them up in smoke.
It goes on to say he did this also with a bull and a goat.
It’s a horrible, somber picture. And it was no different for the Lamb of God. His death was violent and bloody.
We no longer sacrifice animals because Jesus paid it all. If we continued to sacrifice animals according to the old law, it would be saying what he did on the cross wasn’t enough. Not only did he spill his innocent blood for us, but he rose again! He continues to live and offer himself as a substitution to anyone who believes in him!
Did Jesus actually die on the cross?
John, the only disciple present, gives us his eyewitness account in chapter 19:
Jesus’ Side Is Pierced
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
On the cross, people would push up with their feet to help get a breath into their lungs. When they became too weak, they would die of asphyxiation and blood loss. That is why the guards would break their legs to speed up the process. But Jesus was already dead, so they did not break his legs as the prophesy said. Nor are the sacrificial Passover lambs’ legs to broken according to scripture.
Aside from the hundreds of eye witnesses, John describes the crucial blow to his death: “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” Medical professionals think his beatings and hanging on the cross alone would not have been survivable. But if that weren’t enough, this outpouring of blood and clear fluid would have come from a punctured lung and the clear fluid that surrounds the heart.
Where was Jesus’ tomb?
Jesus Is Buried
38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
At least two members of the 70-member Sanhedrin council believed Jesus was the messiah after all — Joseph and Nicodemus. Scripture tells us up until that point they kept their belief a secret, but now their reputations would be on the line. This was a bold, even dangerous move to ask Pilate for the body of Jesus.
They were willing to give significantly of their own resources. Joseph offered his own unused tomb nearby. Nicodemus brought 75 pounds of embalming ingredients.
Joseph and Nicodemus took Jesus down from the cross. This would have been laborious and difficult work, not to mention morbid and messy. It probably included climbing a ladder and hammering the nails out from the other side, carrying his lifeless body down and removing the crown of thorns lodged in his head. They were not alone, however. We know from Luke and Mark that Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ mother were there, along with other women.
Speaking of Mary, what this mother endured that day is unspeakable. She watched her baby boy unfairly tried, flogged, tormented, humiliated and betrayed. But she was there, just as she had been his whole life. One can imagine that she used Nicodemus’ ingredients, along with her own tears, to clean and anoint his bloody, disfigured and maimed body.
The Savior, born of a virgin, entered the holy city on a unridden donkey to die and was placed in an unused tomb.
Why was Jesus’ tomb guarded and sealed?
The Guard at the Tomb
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
Jesus was a threat to the chief priest’s prestige and power. If he really did rise, or if the disciples made it look like he did, they would lose power. (Don’t worry, priests, the disciples really don’t have it together right now, they won’t be able to pull this off.)
In my research, I learned that it could have been a round stone in front, but possibly the much more commonly used square, cork shape.9 The round disks were used only for the very wealthy. One curious detail is found in Matthew 28:2.
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
It would be difficult to sit on a disc, but I guess he is an angel.
Whatever the shape, the stone was very heavy. The women came back to the tomb after the Sabbath to finish at the tomb and in Mark 16:3 said “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
And The Quest Bible Study (pg 1379) says, “The stone covering the tomb’s entrance probably had a rope or cod wrapped across it. The cord was then sealed in wax or clay at each end, so that no one could move the stone without breaking the seal or cutting the cord.”
Scripture doesn’t tell us who guarded the tomb. Pilate told the Pharisees they had a guard they can use. We see in Matthew 28 there were more than one guard when the angel came. And here’s what happened:
The Report of the Guard
11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
Now I’ve read all kinds of articles convinced it was the Roman guard and other articles saying it was the Temple guard, but there’s no proof. Some verses call them soldiers, which the Temple guards were not usually referred to. But it’s odd that some of the guard reported to the chief priests first instead of the Roman authorities. Buuuut they had just seen an angel and feared for their lives, so maybe.10
Also, according to Pastor Don Stewart, “The Roman guard was a sixteen-man unit that was governed by very strict rules. Each member was responsible for six square feet of space. The guard members could not sit down or lean against anything while they were on duty. If a guard member fell asleep, he was beaten and burned with his own clothes. But he was not the only one executed, the entire sixteen-man guard unit was executed if only one of the members fell asleep while on duty.” 11
Well, no matter who the guards were, they couldn’t hold Jesus in the grave!
How many prophesies did Jesus’ earthly life fulfill?
Jesus Christ fulfilled over 300 prophesies in the Bible. He essentially fulfills the old testament. Here are the major eight, all written between 500 and 1,000 years before Christ’s birth:
- The Messiah will die by having His hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16).
- The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
- The Messiah will remain silent while He is afflicted (Isaiah 53:7).
- A messenger will prepare the way for the Messiah (Malachi 3:1).
- The Messiah will enter Jerusalem as a king riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).
- The Messiah will be betrayed by a friend and suffer wounds in His hands (Zechariah 13:6).
- The Messiah will be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12).
- The betrayal money will be used to purchase a potter’s field (Zechariah 11:13).
According to “Science Speaks,” written by Peter Stoner, the chances of the just eight major prophesies of Jesus being fulfilled by one person is 1 in 10 to the power of 17. 1:100,000,000,000,000,000
The chances of one man fulfilling 40 of the prophesies in the Old Testament is 1:100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.¹
Why did Jesus die on the cross?
Jesus lived a perfect life and died willingly on the cross as a substitution for those who believe in him, breaking the barrier between sinners and God, changing our eternal home to Heaven.
What is sin? Why do I need saved from it?
Our purpose in life is to glorify God. A sin is when we miss the mark, when we fall short, when we do not glorify him. And the Bible tells us that we have “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We’ve discussed the 10 commandments: Have you worshipped anything other than God? Have you taken his name in vain? Have you ever dishonored your parents? Have you ever murdered someone in your heart? Or looked at someone with lustful intent other than your spouse? Have you ever stolen something? Or lied? Or coveted?
Clearly no one can no to all of these — or most of them. Some years ago, as a newly-committed Christian, I wasn’t sure what a sin was. I googled for a list. The list I found was expansive, but I quickly found out, not exhaustive. So I began to ask myself this question I heard on the radio: Can God bless this? It’s not a perfect definition, but it can put new perspective on our smaller, everyday actions.
Can he bless this tv show? This drink? This computer time? The way I’m treating my family? The white lies to avoid things? The gossip I just shared? …
So we all sin, but why do we need saved from it? Because our sin keeps us separated from a holy God. Sin is a decimation to his creation. We are endanger of hell if we chose to reject Jesus’ offer and remain in our sin. God will judge us one day — think of all the things you’ve said and done — but there is one who paid the price for you. All you have to do is accept it.
I heard this once: The person doing the rescuing has something the rescuee does not. We cannot earn our way back to God.
The solution is to turn toward God, not away from him, and ask forgiveness. You are now granted a full pardon, for your debt has been paid in full by his son. It’s true we don’t stop sinning this side of Heaven, so this will be a repeated process, but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can grow from our mistakes, learn and leave sinful habits.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26
Take up your cross with Jesus and die to a worldly way of living, to selfish desires and answer his call. The life he has to offer us is much better than what we can imagine. You can live a life of empty, egocentric comfort or one with hands open, that hold the things of this world loosely. A life ready to listen and obey. A life that will reap the rewards of love, mercy, grace and life eternal with our good, good Father who desperately seeks relationship with us. Walk with him and you will experience peace and joy you never thought possible, even amongst the trials and heartache of this world.
It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming! Next time we’ll talk about Jesus walking out of the grave and into Heaven, what that means for us today and how he’s coming back!
Images purchased from Lightstock.com.