“So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” (John 19:16-18)
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is so central, so often communicated by Christians and in churches that it seems we do not need to learn anything more than what we already know. At the same time, there are churches and church attendees who are removing the message of the crucifixion of Christ from their buildings, preaching and conversations. This, therefore, makes the circumstances and meaning of the crucifixion of Christ all the more paramount for believers to trust in, commit to, depend upon and worship the God of its inception and fulfillment.
For the next several days, we will examine the subject of crucifixion three areas. Those areas of study include (1) its historical context and origination; (2) its specific application to Jesus Christ’s historical crucifixion; and (3) the theological significance of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion to the climatic message of the Gospel.
When last we met, we examined crucifixion’s historical origin. We now begin to study the act of crucifixion with respect specifically to Jesus Christ.
The Predictions: The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) record predictions by Jesus Christ of His own crucifixion (Matthew 16:13-23; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34; Luke 9:18-22). Additionally, the Gospel of John recorded three sayings about the Son of Man being “lifted up” (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32–33), which is a reference to crucifixion.
As the Tyndale Bible Dictionary notes, “There are several themes interwoven into those passages: (1) Christ’s passion (a term used for his suffering on the cross) was part of God’s redemptive purpose (Mark 8:31, “must”). (2) Both Jews and Romans were guilty of “delivering” and of “killing” Jesus. (3) His death would be followed by vindication via the resurrection. (4) His death itself, in a paradoxical way, was seen as a means of his entering into “glory” (seen in the symbolism John attached to “lifted up”).”
Other statements which refer to Jesus’ crucifixion include his reference to the murder of the prophets (Matthew 23:29–30; Luke 13:33), His parables (the marriage feast, Matthew 22:1–14; the wicked tenants, Mark 12:1–10), and his teachings about the second coming and a similar suffering experienced by his disciples (Mathew 10:24–28; Mark 8:34–35; John 15:18–25).
The Historical Event: Jesus’ crucifixion was a combination of Roman and Jewish elements. Although the Gospel writers stressed the Jews responsibility for their own purposes, the gospels are careful to distinguish between the Jewish religious leaders and the common people. It was the leaders who initiated Jesus’ arrest (Mark 14:43) and his trial by the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53–64). Though Pilate seemed to vacillate and in the end surrendered weakly to the crowds by “washing his hands” of any guilt (Matthew 27:24), the Roman government was clearly responsible for the Crucifixion of Christ. Since the Sanhedrin did not have the power to inflict capital punishment, Pilate’s decision was necessary before crucifixion could occur. Further, Roman soldiers actually carried out the execution.
Additionally, Roman customs were observed in Jesus’ scourging, His mock enthronement and stripping, the bearing of His own crossbeam, His being nailed to the cross, and the breaking of the two crucified thieves’ legs. The elevated site fits the custom of displaying certain criminals publicly. So does the height of Jesus’ cross, probably seven to nine feet (2 to 3 meters).
One commentary concludes that, “The presence of a tablet bearing the inscription “The King of the Jews” on the cross suggests that the crossbeam was fixed somewhere below the top of the stake. Jewish elements are seen in the wine mixed with myrrh (Mark 15:23), the vinegar on the hyssop reed (v 36), and the removal of the body before sunset and the beginning of the Sabbath (John 19:31).”
More to come. Mary God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!