The Crucifixion of Jesus
Jesus’ Was Crucified at the “Place of the Skull” (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33, John 19:17)
The Roman soldiers led Jesus outside of the walls of Jerusalem to a place called the “Place of the Skull.”
Note: The location of the “Place of the Skull” is known as “Golgotha” in Aramaic (meaning skull) and “Calvary” in Latin (meaning skull). The location of Jesus’ crucifixion was outside Jerusalem’s city walls at a place of execution. It was probably called the ‘Place of the Skull’ because it was a place of crucifixion, with skulls and bones scattered around the area. It was located near a city gate or major road, since Roman crucifixion was intended to be a public spectacle. The location of the “Place of the Skull” (and the burial tomb of Jesus) was probably within the area now occupied by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This location is deeply rooted in early Christian tradition. Queen Helena—the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine—made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in AD 326 and had the Church of the Holy Sepulcher built as a memorial to Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. During the time of Jesus, the location of the area of the Church of Holy Sepulcher was outside of Jerusalem’s walls and was only walled within the city by Herod Agrippa between AD 41 and AD 44. Today the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is shared by five different Christian communities—Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian Orthodox and Armenian. Although some people identify the “Place of the Skull” as being a rocky hill called Gordon’s Hill just north of the Old City of Jerusalem, this is wrong. The claim that one can see the shape of a human skull in the cliff face of Gordon’s Hill, is a modern view. For Gordon’s Hill was not a hill at the time of Jesus; it is the product of modern quarrying operations. Gordon’s Hill is named after British General Charles George Gordon. He visited Jerusalem in 1883 and identified this hill as the place of Jesus’ crucifixion because it looked like a skull.
Roman Soldiers Mock Jesus and Offer Him Mixed Wine and Wine Vinegar (Matthew 27:34, Mark 15:23, Luke 23:36-37)
When they arrived at the “Place of the Skull” (Golgatha or Calvary) the Roman soldiers mocked Jesus. They said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” They then offered Jesus wine vinegar mixed with bitter juice (myrrh) to drink for his pain. But after Jesus tasted it, he refused to drink it.
Note: Wine vinegar was cheaper than normal wine; it was often drank by the non-elite, including workers and soldiers.The wine mixed with myrrh, a sap-like oil that is extracted from trees for use in medicines for pain. The Roman soldiers offered Jesus this wine as a form of mocking.
The Crucifixion of Jesus (Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24-25)
The Roman soldiers crucified Jesus on Friday morning between 9 a.m and noon.
Note: The Roman execution squads usually were around four soldiers. They stripped the condemned man (women were not crucified) of his clothes to humiliate him and then nailed his wrists to the crossbeam. They then lifted the crossbeam with forked poles and attached it to a seven foot tall main stake (the palus) that usually remained at the place of crucifixion to be used over again. The stake and crossbeam would make the shape of a cross (t). Although Romans tied people to the crossbeam with a rope, Jesus was nailed to the crossbeam through his wrists, not through the palm of his hands. The weight of a body would rip the hands open. A man being crucified could sometimes rest himself on a seat attached to the main stake, allowing him to pull up his body and keep breathing. Death was caused by loss of blood, exposure, exhaustion, and suffocation. Those being crucified would sometimes hang for days in absolute pain. The Romans often left decaying bodies on crosses long after they had died, and the decaying bodies would be eaten by vultures. However, the soldiers could take the bodies down early by breaking their legs. Breaking a man’s legs caused a quick death because it prevented a man from pushing himself up with his legs to breathe.
Roman Soldiers Divide Jesus’ Clothes (Matthew 27:35-36, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23-24)
The Roman soldiers took Jesus’ outer clothes (cloak) and divided them into four parts—one part for each of them. Jesus’ undergarment (inner tunic) was pieces of cloth sown together. So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it. Let’s throw dice (lots) to decide who will get it.” This happened to fulfill Psalm 22:18, “They divided my clothes among them and cast dice (lots) for my clothing.”
Note: Roman soldiers could take anything valuable from men being crucified. The soldiers loved to gamble, and so they threw dice for Jesus’ undergarment.
Jesus’ Prayer of Forgiveness (Luke 23:34)
When he was being crucified, Jesus prayed out loud, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Pilate’s Written Charge: The King of the Jews (Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38. John 19:19-22)
Pontius Pilate had a sign nailed above Jesus’ head on the main stake with the charge against him. It read, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” The sign was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. The Jewish chief priests protested to Pilate. They said, “Do not write ‘The king of the Jews!’ Write that Jesus claimed to be ‘the king of the Jews.’ ” Pilate said, “What I have written, I have written.”
Note: Aramaic was the primary language used by the Jews of Palestine. Latin was the official language of the Romans. Greek was the international language of the Roman Empire, understood by both Jews and non-Jews. Many people would read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was just outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
Two Criminals Crucified With Jesus (Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27-28, Luke 23:33, John 19:18)
The Roman soldiers crucified two criminals with Jesus—one of them on a cross at his right side, and the other one on a cross at his left side.
The People Yell Insults at Jesus (Matthew 27:39-40, Mark 15:29-30, Luke 23:35)
The people walking by Jesus yelled words of shame at him. They shook their heads in disgust. They shouted, “You were going to destroy the temple and build it again in three days. If you are the Son of God come down off the cross and save yourself! He saved other people; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
The Religious Leaders Yell Insults at Jesus (Matthew 27:41-43, Mark 15:31-32)
The Jewish chief priests, teachers of the law of Moses, and elders made fun of Jesus. They shouted, “He saved others. But he can’t save himself! He trusts in God. So let God rescue him if he is the ‘Son of God.’ Let this Messiah—this king of Israel—come down from the cross. If he comes down from the cross we will believe in him.”
The Criminals Yell Insults at Jesus (Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32, Luke 23:39-43)
One of the criminals who hung next to Jesus shouted insults at him. He said, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked the man. He said, “Don’t you fear God! You are under the same sentence of crucifixion? We deserve to die. But he did nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth: Today you will be with me in the paradise.”
Note: When Jesus spoke about “paradise,” he referred to the heavenly kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 12:4, Revelation 2:7), the presence of God, which believers experience immediately after death (see 2 Corinthians 5:8, Luke 16:23).
Mary and the Women Disciples of Jesus (John 19:25-27)
Jesus’ mother Mary, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood near the cross. Jesus looked down at them. He saw his mother, and the apostle John. He said to his mother, “Here is your son.” He said to John, “Here is your mother.” So John took Mary into his home.
Darkness From Noon to 3 p.m. (Matthew 27:45-49, Mark 15:33-36, Luke 23:44-45)
The sun stopped shining. And darkness covered all the land from noon to 3 p.m. At 3 p.m., Jesus cried out Psalm 22:1 in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned (forsaken) me?” When some of those standing near heard Jesus, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” One of them ran and got a sponge that he filled with wine vinegar. He put the sponge on a stick and lifted it up to Jesus to drink. The others said, “Leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down from the cross.”
Jesus Dies: It is Finished! (Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:47, Luke 23:46, John 19:28-30)
Jesus knew that God’s word would be fulfilled. He said, “I am thirsty.” So the Roman soldiers dipped a sponge into a jar of sour wine, put it on the end of a hyssop branch, and lifted it to Jesus’ mouth. When Jesus tasted the sour wine, he cried out, “It is finished! Father, I commit my spirit into your hands!” Jesus took his last breath, bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.
Note: Jesus’ life was not taken from him by humans. He died voluntarily. The redemptive purpose of God in Jesus Christ was now fulfilled.
The Roman Soldiers Praise God (Matthew 27:51-52, 54, Mark 15:38-39, Luke 23:44, 47)
When Jesus died, the inner curtain of the temple—separating the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place—was torn in two from top to bottom. And the earth shook and the rocks split and the tombs broke open. When the high-ranking Roman soldier (a centurion) and his guards felt the earthquake and saw all that had happened, they were terrified and praised God. The soldier said, “He is a righteous man. It is true. He is the Son of God!”
Note: The high priest on the Day of Atonement is the only one who could go behind this curtain into the Most Holy Place. The tearing of the inner curtain represents that now all believers in Jesus Christ can have direct access into God’s presence.
Women Disciples Watch Jesus’ Crucifixion (Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:48-49)
Jesus’ women disciples were watching his crucifixion from a distance. They were the women that had followed him from Galilee and cared for his needs, Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, the mother of James and John, and Salome. There were other people watching Jesus’ crucifixion. They beat their chests in sorrow and went away.
The Roman Soldier Pierces Jesus’ Side (John 19:31-37)
It was the day of Preparation (probably Friday, the day before the special Passover Sabbath day). The Jewish religious leaders did not want dead bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, so they asked Pilate to have the legs broken of the crucified men. This would speed up their deaths. And their bodies could be taken down from the crosses. The Roman soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals. But when they came to Jesus, he was already dead. So they did not break his legs. Instead, a soldier pierced Jesus’ side with a spear. And blood and water poured from his side. This happened to fulfill what is written in Exodus 12:46, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and what is written in Zechariah 12:10, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”
Note: The wood shaft with an metal head pierced the pericardial sac around Jesus’ heart that released its fluid along with blood.