The death of Jesus should have been no surprise for His disciples. Jesus had prepared His disciples for the fact that He would die in Jerusalem. Jesus knew this was the plan of God, and this was the reason He came into the world. As the time was approaching, Jesus made His purpose clear: “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name” (Jn 12:27-28).
Jesus also anticipated the effect His death would have: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die” (Jn 12:32-33). His death would be by crucifixion, but by doing so, people would be drawn to Him in unexpected ways.
The Trials of Jesus Christ
(Lk 22; Matt. 26-27)
Jesus had taken His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He went a out from their midst and spent His time in prayer to His Father. Three times He asked ““O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” His resolve is grievously heard in the words, “Not My will, but Yours be done.”
It was in the garden where Judas would find the occasion to betray Jesus into the hands of the chief priests and Pharisees. Coming out with weapons, Judas led them to Jesus and kissed Him on the cheek. Even here, the events that occurred should have convicted these men of whom Jesus was: their falling to the ground before Him (Jn 18), and the miracle of replacing the ear of the servant were both powerful demonstrations of His identity. None of that mattered to the ones intent on seeing Jesus die.
Jesus did not fight back at this point. He let them bind Him and take Him to where He would stand accused of blasphemy. He would stand before two High Priests (politically and religiously, Annas and Caiaphas), Pilate (the governor of the region), and Herod (the king). In the process of these trials, He would be beaten, spit upon, lied against, and unjustly accused. And for what? They had no better motive than envy. Christ’s motive was love for us.
In all of this, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?” (53:7-8)
The Scourging of Jesus
“But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering…” (Isa 53:10). “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21). “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Pet 2:24).
Jesus prophesied that this time would come. He would have to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die a very cruel death (Matt 16:21). The trials were an unjust display of cruelty motivated by envy and hatred. They had no intentions of letting Jesus go free.
Pilate examined Jesus and could find nothing against Him that would warrant death. He attempted to remove himself from the guilt of the situation by washing his hands of it, but the people would prevail and Pilate would send Jesus to His death.
As was their tradition, Pilate brought a couple prisoners before the people to let them decide who would be released and who would be punished. Barabbas, a known criminal, was brought out with Jesus. Justice did not matter at this point to the people. “Release Barabbas,” they cried. Then what to do with Jesus? The cry of the mob still rings out loud and clear: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
First, Jesus was scourged at the hand of the Romans. Scourging was possibly the worst kind of flogging administered by ancient courts. Scourging was not normally a form of execution, but it certainly was brutal enough to be fatal in many cases. A person certainly could be beaten to death by the scourge if that was desired. Its purpose was not only to cause great pain, but to humiliate as well. It was belittling, debasing, and demeaning. It was considered such a degrading form of punishment that, according to the Porcian (248 B.C.) and Sempronian (123 B.C.) laws, Roman citizens were exempt from it. It was the punishment appropriate only for slaves and non-Romans, those who were viewed as the lesser elements in Roman society. To make it as humiliating as possible, scourging was carried out in public view.
The instrument used to deliver this form of punishment was called a flagellum. The flagellum was not designed merely to bruise or leave welts on the victim. The flagellum was a whip with several (at least three) thongs or strands, each perhaps as much as three feet long, and the strands were weighted with lead balls or pieces of bone. This instrument was designed to lacerate. The weighed thongs struck the skin so violently that it broke open.
The victim of a scourging was bound to a post or frame, stripped of his clothing, and beaten with the flagellum from the shoulders to the loins. The beating left the victim bloody and weak, in unimaginable pain, and near the point of death. It is no doubt that weakness from his scourging was largely the reason Jesus was unable to carry his cross all the way to Golgotha (Matt. 27:32).
Why did Pilate have Jesus scourged? While Roman law required capital sentences to be accompanied by scourging, the decision to scourge Jesus was made before it was determined that he would be crucified. After Jesus was scourged, Pilate attempted to release him (Jn 19:1). Only when the crowd threatened riot at this suggestion did Pilate allow Jesus to be crucified, and then still reluctantly. It seems that Pilate had two things in mind. First, it may be that Pilate, while he was unable to find out exactly what Jesus had done to cause the Jews to be so angry with him, suspected that Jesus was at least a troublemaker and had probably done something to deserve a flogging. It was Pilate’s job to keep and enforce peace in his region of the empire, so he probably felt no guilt at having Jesus scourged for having caused such an uproar. Secondly, Pilate hoped that if he humiliated Jesus enough the mob would be satisfied and he would not have to execute a man he believed to be innocent (Lk 23:16). He stood the scourged Jesus before them wearing a crown of thorns and a mock robe. Pilate told them, “Behold, the man!” (Jn 19:5). By this he meant, look at him now. He will not go around calling himself a king anymore, and he will not cause you any more trouble. However, the mob was not satisfied with only a humiliated Jesus. They demanded his death.
Like everything else about his death, Jesus knew that he would be scourged. He mentioned it when He predicted his sufferings for the third time (Matt. 20:19 ). He knew that before he died of the torture of the cross he would have to endure a savage, brutal beating at the hands of the Romans who were more than ready to vent their hatred against Jews. He accepted those blows, and his body was ripped open at the post, for us. He was taking the punishment of the sins of the world so that we might not have to suffer the consequences of our transgressions. “By his stripes we are healed”.
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ
(Lk 23; Jn 19)
They then would make Him bear His own cross on His beaten back. Apparently physically exhausted already, they compelled another man, Simon, to help with this. When they reached the “place of the skull,” they crucified Jesus. There was no big fanfare, and the Scriptures do not go into great detail. There were crowds standing against Him and a handful of others watching on as they drove the spikes through His hands and feet, lifting Him up to die the death of a criminal.
Jesus was on the cross about six hours, fully aware of what was happening, and making several statements, some worthy of examination:
- Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Lk 23:34
- Today you will be with me in paradise. Lk 23:43.
- Behold your son: behold your mother. Jn 19:26
- My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matt 27:46
- I thirst. Jn 19:28
- It is finished. Jn 19:30
- Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. Lk 23:46
Jesus held no grudges against all who hated him enough to have him killed. Why? Because Jesus laid down his life freely. “ No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (Jn 10:18)
He spoke to one of the two thieves, “Today, you shall be with me in paradise.” Many falsely believe Jesus promised the thief eternal life in heaven. Many falsely believe the thief was saved by faith only separate and apart from baptism, thus nullifying baptism. First of all, Jesus made his last prophecy by saying the word “Today”. It was no given that people would die the same day they were crucified. In fact, some lasted for several days on the cross. Secondly, Jesus did not die and go to heaven. In fact, the risen Jesus said to Mary Magdalene: “Touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father (Jn 20:17). As for the thief believeing Jesus to be the Christ, there is no such affirmation anywhere in the bible. It is more than noteworthy that no one to that point had obeyed the gospel of Christ. Why? Because the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:1-4). Jesus had not yet died, much less buried and risen from the dead. The thief was born, he lived, and he died under the law of Moses and would have to be judged according to that law, and not the law of Christ. Therefore, in no way, shape, or form was the thief our example to follow for our salvation.
Then Jesus spoke to Mary, his mother. This must have been the most excruciating conversation imaginable. Even so, Jesus was looking out for the welfare of his mother. The scriptures record that Mary from that hour moved into John’s house (Jn 19:27).
Then Jesus felt that God had forsaken him. This was in part because God cannot look upon sin, even the sin which Jesus bore for us (Isa 59:2). Secondly, this was prophesied by the psalmist Daivd when wrote, “Hide not your face far from me; put not your servant away in anger: you have been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation” (Ps 27:9). Evidently, God did not forsake His Son for Jesus commened his spirit back to God.
Jesus was in control, and when the time came, the choice was His to give up His life. “It is finished,” was His cry (Jn 19:30). Through all pain and sufferning he had to endure for us, Jesus fulfilled His purpose as the Lamb slain for the sins of the world.
The Purpose Jesus’ Death
It was God who gave His only begottend Son to die for us upon the cruel cross of Calvary (Jn 3:16). In the end, let’s remember that the Lord’s laid down his life freely for us. Because of His shed blood, we can have forgiveness of sin. However, we only have forgiveness of sins if we obey the gospel of Christ. We must hear the gospel of Christ (Rom 10:17). We must believe with our hearts and confess with our mouth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Rom 10:9,10). We must repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Jesus verily said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (Jn 15:13-14).
The greatest news of all is that as Jesus had prophesied, three days after His death, Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of His Father. This occured early the first day of the week (Sunday) (Mk 16:2 ff; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1). The semblance of Jesus death and our salvation is this: confessed believers must be buried with Christ by baptism. “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3,4). Therefore, if we are to be saved we must suffer for the cause of Christ, even as He suffered for us (1 Pet 4:1,16). Even as Christ, if we endure to the end, we shall be saved (Jam 1:12; Rev 2:10).