What Was the Crucifixion of Jesus? Facts about His Death on the Cross
- Meg Bucher Writer and Author
- 2019 15 Apr
“Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.” John 19:16
The Crucifixion of Jesus is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. All of Scripture leads up to this pinnacle moment in the history of humanity. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave His life in order to defeat the deadly consequences of sin . . . once and for all. He made a way for us to stand in the presence of the Father, the One True God, and to live with Him for eternity in heaven. Through the most painful death, came the greatest gift, our salvation through the Messiah. We honor the memory of Jesus’ death on Good Friday of Holy Week and celebrate His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
What Does Crucifixion Mean?
Crucifixion is a death sentence, a nailing or tying of the hands and feet to a wooden beam and being left to hang there until death by exhaustion or asphyxiation. The crucifixion Jesus endured was even more brutal than the typical punishment for criminals. He was given a crown of thorns, beaten along the way, mocked and humiliated. Sometimes the legs of the criminals are broken to speed up the process, but Christ was pierced in the side and determined to be dead already so His legs were not broken. While a crucifixion was an execution, it was also a humiliation, by making the condemned as vulnerable as possible.
Jesus’ death on the cross symbolizes the Christian call to “take up our cross” daily and choose God each day by the power of the Holy Spirit. Crucifixion is also defined as unjust treatment or persecution, aptly defining what it often costs us in this life to follow Christ. Paul significantly stated, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“The cross is as central to living the Christian life as it is to entering into it.” -Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
Who Is Jesus?
Jesus represents one person of the Triune God, God’s only Son. He chose to come to earth, according to God’s great plan to restore and redeem His people, who throughout the Old Testament, failed to keep His laws due to the fallen and sinful nature put in place when Adam and Even succumbed to the devil’s temptation in the Garden of Eden. He walked the earth for 33 years living a sinless life, was crucified, died, was burried, and rose from the dead. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, where He will remain until He returns, a time which only God knows.
"We believe in a Christ-centered Bible. The salvation that was expected in the Old Testament is exhibited in the Gospels and then explained in the rest of the New Testament.” -BibleStudyTools.com, “Jesus Through the Bible.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5
The Gospel of John recorded more than just the events of Jesus’ life, revealing more of who He was. There are seven statements in his gospel in which Jesus, Himself, tells us who He is:
- “I am the bread of life.” John 6:35-48
- “I am the light of the world.” John 8:12; John 9:5
- “I am the gate.” John 10:7
- “I am the good shepherd.” John 10:11-14
- “I am the resurrection and the life.” John 11:25
- “I am the way, the truth and the life.” John 14:6
- “I am the vine.” John 15:1-5
“Once you begin to understand that Jesus is in fact God, and that he is in a unique and exclusive relationship with God the Father, you also begin to understand that if you want to know the God who created you, then you need to know Jesus. There’s just no other way.” -Greg Gilbert, “Who is Jesus?”
5 Things to Know about the Life and Ministry of Jesus
1. He redefined love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
It was out of love for us God sent His Son, and love that compelled Christ to accept the fate of the cross. His sacrificial love redefined the human understanding of the word. Love was the main focus of Jesus’ ministry on earth. He redefined acceptance, paying attention to those on the fringes of life. He healed beyond our human capacity to understand, and granted forgiveness for sins which had been deemed unforgivable. He left us with a new command:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must you love one another.” John 13:34
2. Jesus was fully man.
Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem, to the virgin mother, Mary and His earthly father Joseph. Jesus’ ministry didn’t begin until He was 30 years old (Luke 3:23). Jesus had to grow up physically, mentally, and spiritually, just like us. Though He was sinless, He was still fully human. He had siblings, friends, and parents He obeyed. Our Savior truly felt all of the growing pains of humanity.
“No human, not even the God-man himself, skips the growth and maturation process, and no true growth is one-dimensional, but both toward God and man, with all the attendant pains.” -David Mathis, “How God Became a Man. What Jesus Did for Thirty Years.”
3. He came to teach the truth.
“Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And he said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came.” Mark 1:35-39
Jesus came to earth to speak the truth about God and Himself. The Truth sets us free, and He came not only to proclaim who He was but how who He is can save us. “A miracle does no ultimate good for the people who receive it if they reject the gospel.” -Ligonier, “The Purpose of Jesus’ Ministry.”
Christians are challenged to live mission minded lives. The mission is the Gospel:
“‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore to and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:16-20
4. Jesus performed miracles.
Jesus performed many miracles on earth. He changed water into wine (John 2:1-11), fed five thousand with a few fish and loaves of bread (Matthew 14:15-21), raised His friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-46), and many other signs and wonders not all of which were recorded. John said, of the miraculous things Jesus did:
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25
Each miracle was incredibly personal to Jesus. He cares deeply for us, and that compassion is displayed in His earthly ministry.
“When we finish reading a miracle, we ought to pause and say, ‘Jesus, show me what this is saying about you.” -John Piper, “Interpreting the Miracles of Jesus.
5. Jesus was baptized.
Jesus’ baptism marks the beginning of His ministry.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” Matthew 3:16-17
“In baptism, by faith, we are united with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism dramatically portrays what happened spiritually when you received Christ: Your old self of unbelief and rebellion and idolatry died, and a new you of faith and submission and treasuring Christ came into being. That’s what you confess to the world and to heaven when you are baptized. ” -John Piper, “What is Baptism and How Important is it?”
What Does the Bible Say about the Crucifixion of Jesus?
“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Matthew 16:21
The crucifixion is recorded in all four New Testament Gospels. (Mathew 27: 1-54, Mark 15:1-40, Luke 23: 1-48, John 19:1-30) After betrayal by Judas and an unfair trial, Jesus was flogged and given a crown of thorns. A company of soldiers put a purple robe on Him to mock, spit upon, and hit Him repeatedly on the head with a staff. They stripped Him of the robe and put His clothes back on Him, then led him to Golgotha (which “means place of the skull’) to crucify Him. John’s Gospel says that Jesus carried His own cross. Other Gospels mention Simon of Cyrene carrying it for Him. He was followed by a large crowd, and many women wept for Him. Nails pierced His hands and feet. Soldiers cast lots for His clothes. But He said:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they doing.” Luke 23:34
The authenticity of Jesus throughout the crucifixion illustrates the dependability of our Savior, His strength and faithfulness. The literal weight of all the sin in the world pressed upon Him as He lived through the final moments of His life on earth. His sinless life was lived and sacrificed to save ours.
Where Was Jesus Crucified?
Jesus was crucified at Golgotha, which means “place of the skull,” because so many had died there. According to the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, executions were held outside city walls. It’s been said that Adam is buried where Christ was crucified, and well as where Abraham was willing to offer His only son Isaac as a sacrifice (naming the place Jehovah-jireh -The Lord will provide.). Matthew Henry’s Commentary states, “for as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall al be made alive.”
What Events Led to the Cross?
“It is not good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being man, make yourself God.” John 10:33
Jesus was turned into the high priest and authorities by Judas, one of the twelve apostles that betrayed Jesus. Soldiers arrested Jesus. The claims Jesus made to be God infuriated the chief priests (John 5:18; 8:58-59).
“The people grumbled against Jesus for eating with sinners and tax collectors (Luke 15:2), but they killed him for claiming to be the Son of God and the King of Israel.” -Kevin DeYoung, “Why Did They Crucify Jesus?”
He was brought into question by the High Priest Caiaphas (Matthew 26:63-66),“who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one hand died for the people” (John 19:14). He was put on trial, unfairly. Even Pilate, the authoritative figure who held the decision in his hands, wanted to release Jesus. But the crowd cheered to release another criminal instead, Barabbas, and crucify Jesus.
5 Things to Know about the Death of Jesus
1. It was dark.
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining.” Luke 23:44-45
People associated darkness with disaster and judgement. God’s timing is perfect, blanketing the last hours of Christ’s life in darkness as the weight of the sin of the entire world was placed upon Him. His death was traded for ours. It could not have been an eclipse, for the moon was always full on the first day of the passover. The rightful punishment for sin is death, with Jesus took on for all of us, His sinless life on earth the sufficient sacrifice to usher us into the presence of our Father again.
2. Jesus questioned God.
“And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloe, lea sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?).” Mark 15:34
Many prophesies were fulfilled at the cross, one being Jesus’ question to God before He gave up His spirit to the Father. But this is only one of the many prophesies fulfilled, word for word, from Psalm 22. John Piper comments, “Jesus seems to have known that the whole of Psalm 22, in some way or other, was about him.” Jesus wasn’t surprised, nor did He lack understanding of what was happening, but rather, He was fully bearing the abandonment of God that we deserve, and felt and suffered through all of the pain that comes along with it.
3. He took one final drink.
“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:28-30
Earlier on His journey to the cross, Jesus refused to accept a drink that would dull the pain. But now, in His final moments, He takes the drink of a commoner, from the branch of a hyssop plant which is used for Passover.
“The first wine (mixed with myrrh) was designed to dull Jesus’ pain, to keep him from having to endure the cross with full consciousness. This wine he refused. And the second (sour) wine was given to keep him ‘conscious for as long as possible,’ and thus have the effect of prolonging his pain. This is the wine Jesus drank.” -David Mathis, desiringGod.org
4. The curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom and the earth shook.
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split” Matthew 27:50-51
Strict rules and religious ceremonies ruled who and when if ever the area behind the temple curtain was visited, and those who wrongly presented themselves in the presence of God died immediately! For the curtain to tear in two speaks loudly of the way Jesus made for us to be in the presence of the Father. Joseph Scheumann explains, "Christ did not come to put men in a redeemable position but to redeem to himself a people.” God’s presence left the temple at Christ’s death, and now the Holy Spirit Himself resides in every believer.
5. Jesus forgave, cared for those He loved, and promised restoration in His final breaths on the cross.
“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’” John 19:26-27
Jesus spent the last part of His ministry preparing His disciples to part with Him. From the cross, in the most unimaginable pain, He still acknowledges the pain His death is causing those who love Him. A mother’s love, and the journey Mary had been through being chosen to be Jesus’ mom. John, Jesus’ best earthly friend and the only disciple at the foot of the cross as Jesus died.
“‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” Luke 23:42-43
Jesus came to die for the lost, and for those on the fringes of society. His kindness to the criminal hanging next to Him proves the point of His death -nothing is powerful enough to overcome it. Belief in salvation through Jesus immediately saves us, no matter what we have done, or when in life we choose to believe.
“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” Luke 23:34
Forgiveness is paramount to love. Jesus illustrated the purpose of His death in His final breaths, forgiving those that tortured and killed Him, choosing to have compassion on their ignorance and lost state. Love forgives, even when it’s not warranted, and especially when it’s undeserved, leaving hope for us all.
The details are graphic, and the process meant to humiliate and prolong profound pain. It was used from the 6th century to the 4th century, ending with the reign of the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire, Constantine the Great. However, it has returned sporadicallyover the centuries as an extreme method of persecution.
5 Things to Know about the Resurrection of Jesus
1. Jesus’ Resurrection Made a Way for Ours.
“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” Romans 6:9
We are raised to life in Christ when we put our faith and belief in Him and His sacrifice on the cross; faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit made possible by Christ. By accepting His gift of salvation, we are free from sin! Though we will still struggle with it and remain sinners on this earth, we begin the process of sanctification in Christ throughout our lives here, and look forward to a full resurrection upon our death as we join our Savior for eternity. “Because of our connection to Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose from death, we can be confident that death will one day have no mastery over us.” -Steve Mathewson
2. Raising of the Dead.
“The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” Matthew 27:52-53
The only occurrence of such an event in Scripture, Matthew records the dead raised to life upon Jesus’ resurrection, their graves broken open by the shaken earth as Jesus died. There are varying opinions as to who these people were that rose, when exactly they rose, and where they went after they appeared to people in the city. Matthew Henry’s Commentary states, “It is more agreeable, both to Christ’s honor and theirs, to suppose, though we cannot prove, that they arose as Christ did, to die no more, and therefore ascended with him to glory.”
3. Jesus’ Empty Tomb Is Evidence.
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” John 20:2
The evidence of the empty tomb was too strong even for the Jewish opposers of Christianity to deny. The burial story is one of the best established facts about Jesus. Intentional and perfectly timed, God made sure the evidence of the most important part of Jesus’ death, the resurrection, was undeniable.
4. His Disciples Were Reunited with Him on Earth.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hand and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” John 20:19-20
His death and resurrection solidified all He had taught them, and launched the work they were purposed to carry out . . . spreading the Gospel news. These eye witnesses, to His life, death, and resurrection, are the foundation of the Christian faith. Before the Bible was a complete book like we carry around and log onto from our phones today, the story of Christ circulated powerfully enough to establish the entire Christian faith.
5. The Resurrection Is Real.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned to him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).” John 20:16
When Mary heard Jesus call her by name, she was able to see Him for who He was. The same is true for us, today, in the personal way we know Jesus when we are open to hearing and seeing His redemptive hand in our lives. Quite literally, Jesus disciples saw Him after His resurrection. “Jesus provided the final exclamation mark for His physical resurrection by telling the disciples that His resurrected body was comprised of ‘flesh and bones.’ ‘Touch me and see;’ He says, ‘a guest does not have flesh and bones, as you se I have’" (Luke 24:39).
They touched His wounds from the cross, and He shared a meal with them, proving His full resurrection, not just that of His soul. His physical body resurrected is the cornerstone of our faith. “When Jesus rose from the dead, he confided his identity as the Son of God and his work of atonement, redemption, reconciliation and salvation. The resurrection was a real, literal, physical raising of Jesus’ body from the dead.” -Bible Study Tools Staff
What Does the Crucifixion Mean for Christians Today?
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
Jesus’ death was necessary because of humanity’s sin. Colin Smith states, “Our sin required a payment but disqualified us from every fulfilling it.” It’s impossible to earn grace. We will never be good enough to stand in the presence of God. Jesus made a way. The way Jesus died granted us freedom and forgiveness (2 Cor 5:17).
Through Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in us, and we are able to communicate with God through prayer and His Word. The crucifixion was the way to eternal salvation. He took every name and every sin to the cross, and defeated death, the rightful punishment for the sin we could never outrun.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
God is personal, intentional, and faithful. Every note of Jesus’ death aligned with the will of the Father. The greatest and most selfless sacrifice of all time. All for love and for all of us.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
A Prayer in Remembrance of Jesus’ Crucifixion
How amazing it is to study the death of our Savior. Soften every heart to experience the Messiah as we have here, today. Let the truth of the Living Word of God dance with the historical facts You have revealed to us as we seek answers to solidify our faith. Father, You are not afraid of our questions, and fully welcome us to lay all of our doubts at Your feet. Work in us a perfect understanding of who we are, and Whose we are . . . who You are . . . and who Jesus is. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, help us to understand and embrace Your love for us, fully. May our lives honor and glorify You, through our salvation in Christ, as we grow in our understanding of Love. Jesus, thank You for Your sacrifice. Your presence is palpable. The Living Word of God, the Good Shepherd, our Savior. Thank You for everything. May the far corners of the earth hear Your name and learn of Your love. Bless the world, and show us our place in, and our mission upon it.
In Jesus’ Name,
The crucifixion of Christ is the foundation of the Christian faith. We should never be afraid to ask questions about it, or search for answers concerning it. For God, Himself, assures us, “when you seek me with all of your heart, you will find me.” Created in His image, we are made to inquire of Him. Keep an open heart, a listening ear, and a sharp mind aligned to biblical Truth. Enjoy the journey of unlocking the miraculous resurrection of the Savior of the world. He is close . . . and He is coming back. Hallelujah! He is risen!
“Megs”writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. She stepped out of her comfort zone, and her Marketing career, to obey God’s call to stay home and be “Mom” in 2011. From that step of obedience her blog, Sunny&80, was born, a way to retain the funny everyday moments of motherhood. (https://sunnyand80.org) Meg is also a freelance writer and author of “Friends with Everyone.” She loves leading her Monday morning Bible study, being a dance mom, distance running and photography. Meg resides in Northern Ohio with her husband, two daughters, and Golden-Doodle … all avid Cleveland Browns fans.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/RomoloTavan