The Crucifixion

 

There is no event in human history that stirs more emotion for the true believer then does Yeshua's (Jesus') suffering and crucifixion. Never does GOD's word cover an event as extensively as it does these few days. It is thus unfortunate that so many details have been missed or even falsely portrayed by Church Tradition. Our Lord's capture was the evil beast's single opportunity to inflict upon his destined enemy all the pain he could wield.

It is also the only time when the Son of man earnestly prayed to His Father that "if it be possible let this cup pass from me". Yeshua had always ran to do GOD's will, but not this time. This time, "being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood" (LUKE 22:44). This may be the only point in all of history when the destiny of mankind hinged on the single decision from a lone man. Every heavenly creature's attention was locked onto that place where He knelt in prayer. Then He spoke, "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt".

GOD's word is silent on many of the torturous hours Yeshua endured. But it does reveal enough for us to know that He didn't walk out of that Praetorian unto Calvary with only a few cuts and bruises, as we see Him depicted in many modern films and Easter Services. Rather, He was able to endure unto the end only because of the same spirit that strengthened Samson. Yeshua was so badly bludgeoned, He was hardly recognizable as a man. One almost feels ashamed to read the details, but what GOD has revealed, HE wants made known.

Those forty hours of His captivity no doubt seemed like an eternity for Yeshua, the hardest thing that any man has ever had to endure. And He was not a bad man. He was not deserving of this kind of treatment. He had only wanted to help people. He began His ministry by exclaiming the good news that this was the "acceptable year of the Lord." But they said among themselves, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours." Yet the apostle Paul wrote many years later, that had they known the glorious result of their ruthless atrocity, "they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (1 CORINTHIANS 2:8).

It all began four thousand years earlier in the Garden of Eden when Yahweh (GOD) declared unto Satan, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (GENESIS 3:15). Now, after four thousand years of frustrating defeats for the evil one, at long last the Serpent's day had arrived. As Yeshua declared, "this is your hour, and the power of darkness". The Adversary was finally going to have his day and unleash on the Prince of Peace all his fury. Even as our Lord rose from prayer in the Garden, the wheel was set in motion by the betraying kiss from one of His most trusted.

LUKE 22:47-48  And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus [Yeshua] to kiss him. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

Judas was probably not out front leading the multitude as tradition suggests. Remember that he was hiding his betrayal. He no doubt acted as if he was running up from behind the multitude and then pretended support for Yeshua by offering Him a kiss. But all had been prearranged by him and the chief priests, as the way to put the finger on He who had been "perverting the nation". No doubt Judas had wearied of Yeshua's refusal to lead an army to overthrow the Romans, and thought that if he forced Yeshua's hand, He would then do what many expected the Messiah to do, deliver the Jews from their enemies as King David had.

After His capture, they led Yeshua unto Annas, a high priest de facto, where He was slapped by an officer of the palace for not answering Annas rightly. It was now late evening on the 13th of Nissan (see calendar). Annas then sent Him bound unto Caiaphas, the official High Priest. Throughout the night He was beaten ruthlessly by His captors. First they were content with spitting in His face, but like a pack of vicious dogs, one brutal act encouraged another. They covered His head and first beat him with their fist but then with whip-like rods, mocking Him to "Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?" If one has ever seen a boxer get beaten badly, he can then imagine the swelling and bleeding that began to contort Yeshua's face.

At daybreak, they led Him unto the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court, where they continued their interrogation. Then later that morning, "led they Yeshua from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment," where Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, heard their accusations against Him. Rome was a nation of laws, where the few were usually protected from the many, and after having examined Yeshua, Pilate declared, "I find no fault in this man." But sometimes the law gave way to the crowd, and on this occasion the voice of the majority ruled. Thus, as we shall see, it was public outcry, the voice of the people, which eventuated with Yeshua's crucifixion.

Next, Yeshua was shuffled over to Herod, another Governor in the province, where He was again mocked, and they "arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate." Pilate believed Yeshua to be innocent, and searched for some way to spare His life, but the more he tried, the more the religious leaders cried for Yeshua's crucifixion. While He was still in the hands of Pilate, He was flogged with a whip that had pieces of metal or bone on the ends. This would literally rip the flesh from off a man's back. The Psalmist had long before wrote of an echo of this event.

PSALM 129:3 The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.

From the book Jesus Christ our Passover, by V.P. Wierwille, we find a vivid description of this flogging.

"When being whipped in this way, the condemned man would be stripped and tied to a stake. The whipping on his bare back would hideously gouge the flesh, literally plowing it loose from the ribs and vertebrae. Large ugly welts would be raised on the body as the rows of plowed flesh lined his back. Bleeding would be profuse."

Three times Pilate reasoned with them for His release, but "the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed". It is noteworthy that those who had devoted their lives to the study of GOD's word were totally blinded to it. They had rejected their long awaited Messiah, the hope of all Israel. Yet here, Pilate, an unbelieving Gentile is so impressed with Yeshua's composure, that he becomes perplexed by the Judeans rabid desire to have Him crucified. Eventually though he is persuaded to deliver Yeshua to their will.

Next, the soldiers led Yeshua into the hall, called Praetorium, where about six hundred Roman soldiers anticipated making sport of this King of the Jews. Here they stripped Him, and mocked Him as a king, placing upon Him a purple robe, a crown of thorns and a reed in His right hand. Each time they removed His clothes, the fresh wounds would be ripped open again, contributing to the intense pain. They also spit upon Him, taking the reed and beating the crown of thorns into His scalp, causing profuse bleeding. How many hours this band of soldiers thus entertained themselves we are not told. Only that when they were finished, like as Isaiah wrote, "many people were aghast at him -- he was so inhumanly disfigured that he no longer looked like a man" (ISAIAH 52:14 New Jerusalem Bible).

Now it is the day of the Passover sacrifice, the 14th of Nissan (see calendar).

"And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him" (MATTHEW 27:31). Church Tradition shows us a man who looks like he got into some minor scuffle, and then was trying to carry this really heavy cross. No way! There is no way a man this badly beaten for this length of time could have even walked. Remember that we have no record of Him sleeping at all during these hours. Two long days before, his disciples were even then too tired to watch a little while for Him, and I'm sure He was no less tired himself.

Many think He carried His own cross that He had built in His carpentry shop, because of a passage in the fourth Gospel, "And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha" (JOHN 19:17). Yet Matthew wrote (as did likewise Mark and Luke), "And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross" (MATTHEW 27:32). Carrying a cross does not always mean physically carrying a wooden cross. In fact, the first two occurrences of this phrase in Scripture have nothing to do with a wooden cross.

MATTHEW 10:38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

MATTHEW 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

This is evidently what the fourth Gospel was referring to, for Matthew plainly wrote, "as they came out, they found a man…to bear his cross." We call it a cross, but it was most likely a straight pole. The word cross is from the Greek word stauros and means "an upright stake." Peter called it a tree (1 PETER 2:24). Whatever it was, Yeshua didn't build it Himself, nor did He carry it up the hill towards Golgotha.

Another misconception Church Tradition has given us, is how many were crucified that day with Yeshua. Most paintings and movies show two others, yet as we shall see, there were four crucified with Yeshua that day (Appendix 164 in the Companion Bible shows one of the rare pictures of five crosses depicted). The confusion arises from not distinguishing between the two "malefactors" and the two "thieves." Luke writes, "And there were also two other, malefactors [kakourgos], led with him to be put to death" (LUKE 23:32). These "kakourgos" were led with Yeshua to be put to death, while Matthew paints an entirely different picture.

MATTHEW 27:35-38  And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there; and set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then, two thieves [lestes] were crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

According to Matthew, after they crucified Him, parted His garments, watched Him for a while, went and fetched and then nailed the accusation over His head, THEN were the two thieves, the two lestes, crucified with Him. These can't be the same two people as the two kakourgos Luke wrote of. For one thing, only one of the malefactors "railed on him" but the other malefactor "...answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise" (LUKE 23:40-43). However, both of the thieves from Matthew's account reviled Yeshua (MATTHEW 27:44).

Also, in the fourth Gospel "…they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst" (JOHN 19:18). One normally doesn't think of being in the midst of two. You are between two, or in the middle of two, but if you are in the midst, there are generally more then two. The Greek text of JOHN 19:18 reads as follows.

Where him they crucified, and with him two others on this side and on that side, and in the middle Jesus.

Plainly, there were two crucified on each side of Him, and Yeshua in the middle of the two pair.

Finally, we come to the record where the soldiers examined those crucified to make sure they were dead and if not to hasten their death by braking their legs. Because of the position of the body when crucified, one would find it extremely hard to breathe. The only way would be, that each time you took a breath, you had to raise yourself with your legs to permit respiration. Howbeit, if your legs were broken, you would soon suffocate.

We find written in the fourth Gospel the following.

JOHN 19:32-33 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs.

Very logically, they came to the first one who was crucified after Yeshua was, then they came to the second "which was crucified with Him," and next in line would be Yeshua, who was in the midst of the four. Finding Him dead, there was no need to continue the account. To read a more detailed account of this, see The Others Crucified.

To read a thorough account of the details of a crucifixion, see Crucifixion in Antiquity.