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Good Friday - the Crucifixion of Jesus

Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, John 11-19

Jesus Is Tried by the Sanhedrin

The high priest accuses Jesus of blasphemy

The high priest accuses Jesus of blasphemy.

After Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the mob took Jesus to the house of Caiaphas [KY uh fuhs], the high priest. Peter had vowed he would never desert Jesus. But Jesus said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." All of Jesus' disciples ran away in fear when Jesus was arrested. But Peter followed at a distance and came to the courtyard of the high priest. Three different people recognized him as one of Jesus' disciples, but Peter strongly denied it each time. Then a rooster crowed, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said. He felt very ashamed and began to cry.

The high priest, all the chief priests, the elders and the scribes were waiting at the high priest's house. This was an informal late-night meeting of the Sanhedrin [SAN hee drun], the Jewish ruling council. They had come together to put Jesus on trial, but it was not to be a fair trial. The religious leaders were looking for evidence that would justify putting Jesus to death, but they could not find any. They called many witnesses against Jesus, but the witnesses did not agree with each other.

Finally, the high priest demanded of Jesus, "Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God." Jesus replied, "I am, and you will see me, the Son of Man, sitting at God's right hand and coming back on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest said, "You have just heard His blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? What is your verdict?" They all shouted, "He deserves death!" Then they spat in Jesus' face and started beating Him.

Jesus Is Tried by Pilate

Jesus is Tried by Pilate

The religious leaders take Jesus to Pilate and accuse Him falsely.

In their mock trial, the religious leaders had agreed that Jesus should be put to death. But they did not have authority to put anyone to death under Roman law. So, as soon as morning came, they took Jesus to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate [PON chus PIE lat]. They falsely accused Jesus of treason against the Roman Empire for claiming to be the king of the Jews and for urging people not to pay their taxes.

Pilate saw that Jesus was not really guilty of anything and wanted to let Him go. But Pilate did not want trouble with the religious leaders. He asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus replied, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my followers would have fought to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But my kingdom is from another place."

It was the governor's custom to release one prisoner at the Passover Feast - anyone the people wanted released. The Jewish leaders knew this and had persuaded the crowd of people gathered around Pilate's house to call for the release of a criminal named Barabbas [buh RAB bas] and to demand that Jesus be crucified.

Pilate asked the crowd of people, "Which do you want me to release, Barabbas or Jesus?" The crowd yelled for Barabbas to be released. Pilate asked, "Then what should I do with Jesus?", and the crowd yelled "Crucify Him, Crucify Him!" So Pilate ordered the Roman soldiers to crucify Jesus.

Jesus Is Crucified

Jesus is Crucified
Jesus is crucified.
Crucifixion was a cruel form of death reserved for criminals and slaves. First, Jesus was beaten by Roman soldiers. Then he was made to carry His cross to the place of execution. Jesus must have been too weak from the beating to carry His cross all the way; the soldiers forced a man named Simon of Cyrene to carry it the rest of the way.

The cross was placed between two other men who were being crucified that day. The soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross and left Him to die. They put a sign on the cross to mock Jesus that said, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."

About noon, strange things begin to happen. Darkness came over the land for three hours. Then Jesus cried out, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit," and then He died. The curtain of the temple was mysteriously torn in two, and there was a great earthquake.

It was Friday afternoon, and the Sabbath would start at sundown. It was also a very special Sabbath because it was Passover. The Jewish leaders wanted all the bodies buried before the Sabbath started because they were not allowed to do any work on the Sabbath.

One of Jesus' followers, a man from the town of Arimathea named Joseph, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. He took Jesus' body and hastily put it in a new tomb that had been carved in rock. He rolled a large stone in front of the tomb to seal it.

Questions

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Jesus' death was an essential part of God's plan for our salvation. It may seem strange to us today, but animal sacrifices for atonement (reconciliation between God and humans) were very common in Jesus' time. Lambs and other animals were routinely sacrificed in the temple to atone for sin. God accepted the death of the sacrificial animal as a substitute for the death that the sinner deserved.

Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sins of all people. Through His death, we are freed from the deadly grip of sin. Although we do not fully understand the how or why of Jesus' sacrificial death, it offers us a chance for salvation, and that is the central belief and hope of Christianity.

Who Was Responsible for Jesus' Death?

The professional religious leaders - the chief priests, elders and scribes - were the driving force behind the death sentence. Judas, Pilate, the crowd of people who called for Jesus to be crucified, and the Roman soldiers all played a part.

But death on the cross was Jesus' destiny. Once the right time had come, Jesus did what was necessary to be sure it happened as planned. He angered His opponents with a bitter denunciation (Matthew 23). He offered no resistance when the chief priest's mob came to arrest Him. He refused to defend Himself before Pilate. Jesus, Himself, said those responsible for His death were doing God's will, even though they didn't know it (Matthew 26:53-54, Mark 10:33-34, John 12:24-28, 18:11, 19:10-11).

In describing the religious leaders, the Gospel of John sometimes uses the unfortunate shorthand "the Jews" instead of the longer "chief priests, elders and scribes." This has been used many times over the centuries as a pretext for persecuting Jews, but it is only a pretext to hide the true motives of prejudice and hatred. The first-century Jewish people as a whole were not responsible for Jesus' death, and their modern-day descendants certainly do not bear any guilt.

Why Was the Curtain of the Temple Torn When Jesus Died?

The curtain of the temple closed off the most holy room of the temple. Only the high priest could enter, once a year, and stand in the presence of God. The tearing of the curtain was a symbol that the death of Jesus had opened the way for all of mankind to approach God.

What Does "INRI" Mean?

The letters "INRI," sometimes shown on the cross, are an acronym for the Latin phrase Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum. They stand for "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." This was the inscription put on the cross by Pilate to mock Jesus. Here was the supposed "king" hanging on the cross like a common criminal. Little did His executioners realize Jesus was really the greatest king of all time!

Where Was Jesus Crucified?

The Bible says Jesus was crucified at a place called Golgotha [GOL gah thuh] (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, John 19:17), which means "Place of the Skull." Luke 23:33 calls the place simply "The Skull." The word "Calvary" (Luke 23:33, in the King James Version), was adapted from the word in old Latin Bibles, calvaria, which means "skull." Golgotha was somewhere outside the walls of Jerusalem, but no one is sure exactly where.

Why Is the Day Jesus Died Called "Good Friday?"

No one is sure. It is called Holy Friday in many other languages. Some say it was originally "God's Friday" in English and somehow got changed into "Good Friday."

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