crucifixion November 8 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Mark 15:22-41; Matthew 27:33-56; Luke 23:33-49; John 19:17b-37

Watch a dramatized version of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ

Seven Responses to the Cross

The Conviction and Sentence

Jesus suffered what today might be considered a hate crime. He was hated because of his religious beliefs and his popularity. In previous Bible studies we learned how Jesus was unjustly arrested, accused, beaten, and tried in courts of law, even though he was innocent and not convicted of any civil crime (he was only convicted of a religious crime for claiming to be the Son of God, which was not punishable by any civil authorities).

Before Pontius Pilate the religious leaders accused Jesus of subverting the nation, of opposing the payment of taxes (Jesus said the opposite—see Luke 20:25), and calling himself a king (Luke 23:2). All of these charges were false, and the accusations did not stick. The Roman governor punished Jesus, but this did not satisfy the crowd of spectators.

The religious leaders and many of the Jewish people cried out for Jesus' crucifixion. “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar,” (John 19:12b, NIV). The chief priests shouted, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15, NIV).

Finally, because of political pressure by the Jewish leaders, Pilate turned Jesus over to Roman soldiers to be crucified.

The Crucifixion—What is it?

The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T., edited by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, pp. 88-89, 188, and 262 describe the crucifixion of Jesus which we witness in today's Bible reading. What follows is a summary of it.

Crucifixion remains as one of the cruelest forms of capital punishment ever devised. The Roman government only does this to those who are considered the worst of criminals. This is why Pilate tried to deliver Jesus—he knew the religious leaders only wanted him killed because they were jealous of him. But Pilate caved to pressure from the crowd.

Those sentenced to die by crucifixion carry a 100 pound cross beam on which they will be impaled. Jesus is so weak from cruel treatment that the soldiers get Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross part of the way. When at the site of the crucifixion, Golgotha, a rocky hill that resembles a giant skull, Jesus is offered wine to drink to dull the senses and ease the pain he will bear, but he refuses it.

Then, like the other criminals, his arms and legs are stretched out and nailed to a rough hewn wooden cross by long iron spikes into his hands and feet (or perhaps, the wrists and ankles for they are considered part of the hands and feet and can bear the weight of the body). Through many long hours (and sometimes days) the criminals hang on the cross in absolute agony. Each attempt to push up so they might fill their lungs with oxygen is excruciating (unlike most who are crucified, Jesus had first been whipped—his back is a bloody, raw, painful mess, and this adds to his agony and loss of strength). Finally, the one crucified suffocates, not having the strength to push himself up anymore. If his death is not quick in coming, often times the legs are broken to hasten his demise (Jesus dies after at least three hours of suffering so his legs are not broken).

At the top of the crucifix post a sign is nailed listing his crimes. In the case of Jesus, the sign in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek reads, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The purpose of crucifixion is to serve as an example to others of the penalty for insurrection against the Roman government. The irony is that Jesus is completely innocent of any wrong, and yet the sign is correct, for he is the King of the Jews.

The Responses

What are the responses of the people who see Jesus crucified? First, he is mocked and insulted. The religious leaders deny he is the Christ and want the sign above his head changed from “The King of the Jews” to “This Man claimed to be the King of the Jews” (John 19:19-22). Then all who pass by him mock and insult him, shaking their heads and saying,

“You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him (Mark 15:29-30,32 NIV)

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.“He saved others,” they said, “but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:39-43, NIV)

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39, NIV)

How does Jesus respond to their mocking? Does he rail back at them? Does he call fire down upon them? No, he says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, NIV). Instead of Jesus calling curses upon his enemies, he prays that God will forgive them!

As the religious leaders and robbers mocked Jesus, many people today also insult, mock, and use his name in vain. Jesus died on the cross and offers forgiveness for all who will trust him for salvation (John 3:16-17; John 5:24, more...). Christians, if Jesus could forgive his enemies who crucified him, we need to forgive those who hurt us.

After a time on the cross, the heart of one of the thieves crucified beside Jesus is softened. He does not continue to have the same response as the other thief crucified with him (Luke 23:39-43). He fears God and comes to believe in Jesus as the King and Savior of souls. This is a second response to the cross. The thief asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. Perhaps it is Jesus’ silent testimony and his words of genuine forgiveness, even in the midst of intense suffering, which impresses the criminal.

Do we fear God? Do we know he punishes sin? Do we believe in Jesus as our Savior? Like the thief on the cross, the good news is that if we turn from our sin and believe in Jesus we can receive forgiveness and be assured of going to heaven (more...).

Christians, are others impressed that you do not curse God or man when you are suffering but endure it and are forgiving toward your enemies?

The third response to Jesus on the cross is greed and selfishness—the soldiers gamble over Jesus’ clothing to see who might win them (John 19:23-24). Some people are like vultures in their greed and selfishness when others die. Even today some make merchandise from the cross of Christ.

Contrasted with the greed and selfishness of the soldiers is Jesus' declaration from the cross. This declaration is the fourth response and is given by him. Jesus does not curse God because of his pain and agony, his feeling of being forsaken by his heavenly Father, and the injustice of his circumstances—he cares for others, especially those closest to him like his mother. In our colloquial terms, Jesus tells John, his closest friend on earth, “Take care of my mother” (John 19:26-27). She will soon need comfort, and he knows John will take good care of her. If we knew we were to suffer and die, if possible we should follow Jesus' example and try to provide for our loved ones.

The fifth response to Jesus’ crucifixion are the exclamations of the Centurion Soldier and those guarding Jesus when he dies (Matthew 27:54). When the Son of God dies there is thick darkness in the middle of the day, a terrible earthquake, and God splits open the veil of the temple from top to bottom.

“When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’” (NIV).

Do we fear God when we hear of the crucifixion of Christ? Do we see God involved in nature and in the lives of people? Let’s fear him and give him praise!

The sixth response to the cross is what most people experience at funerals—grief and sobriety. The crowd watch the terrible scene, they beat their breasts (a sign of grief), and then they go home. Perhaps in this crowd are many people he has healed, given sight, hearing, or speech, raised to life, miraculously fed, and taught. They are sad but there is nothing they can do about it, and they go home.

There is nothing wrong with expressing grief, even for Christians, because God made us with emotions. Sobriety at funerals is also good; we should each think about the brevity of our life and how to live it. Grief and sobriety are still the responses many have at Communion Services, where we remember the suffering and death of Christ on our behalf. In light of his death for us, how should we then live?

The family members, friends, and close followers of Jesus remain at the scene of the cross for a while after he dies and watch what will happen next (Luke 23:49). The seventh response to the cross is disillusion and shock. His followers were so sure this was their Messiah. He was supposed to deliver them from oppression and Roman rule, give their nation peace and prominence, and reign as their king as the prophets of ancient times foretold. Now their Savior and King is dead. They watch Jesus being taken down from the cross and buried before they go home. They are in shock.

What response do you have to the death of Christ? When you think about it, does it just make you sad and then you go on with your life? Are you in shock and grief from all that you hear about Jesus’ sufferings?

Thinking about the death of Christ is indeed sad. It was a dark, black Friday for them, but it is called “Good Friday” today. It is called Good Friday because by his death he purchased our salvation. Praise God—this is not the end of the story—for Jesus would not stay dead in the tomb! As an old preacher once said, “Today is Friday, but Sunday is a comin’!” In our next two Bible studies we will look at the burial and the resurrection of Christ.

What is the proper response Christians should have to the death of Christ? It is included in today’s Focus Verse, and it would be good for us to learn it.

Lessons to Live By

  • Many people mock Jesus today and use his name in vain. Jesus offers forgiveness for all sinners (John 3:15-17; John 5:24).
  • Christians, if our Lord could forgive his enemies who crucified him, we need to forgive those who hurt us.
  • Like the repentant thief on the cross, the good news is that if we turn from our sins and believe in Jesus, we can receive forgiveness and be assured of going to heaven (more...).
  • Christians, are others impressed that you do not curse God and man when you are suffering but endure it and are forgiving toward your enemies?
  • If we knew we were to suffer and die, if possible we should follow Jesus' example and try to provide for our loved ones.
  • Do we see God involved in nature and in the lives of people? Let’s fear him and give him praise!
  • It is true that Jesus died for our sins, but three days later he arose from the dead to give us the hope of salvation!
  • Thinking about the death of Christ gives us a new reason to live. Listen to this encouraging song

Focus Verse

Galatians 2:20 (NIV) “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Helpful resource: 7 Reasons Why I Believe in the Resurrection of Christ by Chip Ingram.

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A Look Ahead: How is Jesus like A Seed Planted? How does this relate to us?

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