Today Jesus died upon the cross. It’s so hard to believe! Just days ago Jesus was led through the streets of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, with crowds gathering along the route singing his praises. Today he was led through the streets, as a criminal, with crowds shouting, “Crucify him!” Jesus’ crime? There was no crime. Jesus simply claimed His identity as the Son of God.
After being beaten, bloodied, mocked, and spat upon, Jesus was forced to carry His cross to the hill outside of town known as Golgotha – Hebrew for The Skull. At one point He was so weak that a man from the crowd (Simon of Cyrene) was called forth to carry the cross for Him. When they reached Golgotha, Jesus was raised on the cross along with two other men who were known criminals and also sentenced to death by crucifixion.
It must have been a scary time. Those who were there said the crowd was a loud and riotous. If anyone wanted to protest Jesus’ death, they were probably too scared to do so. Even Pilate, the governor, questioned Jesus and found no cause for punishment. Yet, he was afraid of the riotous crowd and gave in to the demands of the religious leaders demanding that Jesus be crucified.
Witnesses say that by noon the day had become totally dark. The darkness lasted until 3:00 at which time there was an earthquake and the thick curtain hanging in the Temple to cover the Most Holy Place tore apart. The Most Holy Place was a place where only the High Priest could enter at the designated time to atone for the sins of the people, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and God’s presence rested. It was at this time Jesus said from the cross, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words He breathed His last. (Luke 23:46)
How tragic these events must have been for those who loved Jesus, especially those who witnessed the events. Jesus’ mother, Mary, was in the crowd. She watched her son die a slow death on the cross. Surely this wasn’t how it was supposed to be! He was a special child born to her by the power of the Holy Spirit. She raised Jesus with her husband, Joseph, a carpenter, in humble surroundings. Scriptures say Jesus led a perfect life. How, then, was He crucified with criminals?
Mary and the other women with her watched as Jesus’ body was taken from the cross. Joseph, a member of the High Council (not Jesus’ father), did not agree with the decisions and actions of the other religious leaders. He had asked Pilate if he could take Jesus’ body. He tended to Jesus by wrapping Him in linen cloth and placing him in a new tomb. The women followed the man to the tomb. Then they went home to prepare ointments for embalming Jesus, but by the time they had done so, it was the Sabbath, so rested all day as the Sabbath required. (Luke 24:52-56). What a sad and mournful time this must have been for them.
There is much more to this story. To learn more, read Luke 22:47 – 23:56, John chapters 18 & 19, Matthew 26:36 – 27:66, or Mark 14:43 – 15:47.