Friday, April 22

The Death of Jesus

700 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, which took place in Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah saw Jesus' glory and spoke about Him. (John 12:41) On a Friday in early April of ca.33 AD, Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross, fulfilling all that was written about Him in what we now call the Hebrew Bible (The Law, the Psalms and the Prophets, as called in the Gospels). In this entry, the focus is on what transpired that Friday. *Note: Material is taken from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John unless otherwise noted.

Isaiah, having seen Christ's glory, recorded the following prophecy: "Just as there were many who were appalled at Him - His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond human likeness... He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him and afflicted."

"But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of His generation protested?"

"For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the LORD makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand. After He has suffered; He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

Passover season, April, ca. 33 AD. After three years in ministry, having performed many miracles: from turning water into wine, walking upon water, raising the dead to life, healing the blind, and many others, Jesus was now in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples. Jesus went off to pray to God the Father, and was extremely stressed. An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, Jesus prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Having asked His disciples several time to keep watch, and each time they fell asleep, while Jesus was speaking to them a crowd came up, lead by Judas Iscariot, whom Satan had entered into. Judas approached Jesus and kissed Him, but Jesus asked Him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" Peter attacked a servant of the high priest, Malchus, and cut off his ear. Jesus commanded His disciples to put away their swords, as Scripture had to be fulfilled concerning Him. Jesus proceeded to heal the ear of Malchus, and Jesus was seized by the Guards.

The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating Him, and blind-folded Him and exclaimed, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" The guards hurled insults at Him. Jesus was taken to Caiaphas, who in turn sent Him to Pontius Pilate, Roman Prefect of Judea. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, and Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate had Jesus questioned. "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus replied, "Is that your own idea, or did other talk to you about me?" "Am I a Jew?" Pilate asked. "Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place." "You are a king then!" "You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." "What is truth?" Pilate retorted.

After speaking with Jesus, Pilate went out again and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him." He asked the Jews if they wanted him to release Jesus, but instead they insisted that Barabbas, who had taken part in an uprising, should be released. Jesus was flogged under Roman law, and having been weak already in the Garden, had lacerations and was bleeding all over. The Romans had also stuck a crown of thorns upon Jesus' head. Pilate again brought out Jesus and asked what should be done with him.

"Crucify him!" the crowd answered. Jesus was handed over to be crucified. The soldiers took Jesus, who was carrying his own cross until Simon of Cyrene was seized to help Him carry the cross to Golgotha, the place of the skull. Jesus was nailed to the cross, in between two criminals. Pilate then had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. The Latin inscription read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. The inscription was written in three languages: Aramaic, Latin and Greek.

It was nine in the morning when they crucified Him. Those who passed by hurled insults at Jesus and shook their heads, exclaiming, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!" The chief priests and teachers of the law did the same. At noon, darkness fell over the whole land, and lasted until three in the afternoon. This darkness was seen all over, even in Rome, Athens, and other Mediterranean cities.

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" (Which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?") Jesus said this to fulfill the words of David in Psalm 22, nearly 1000 years earlier, which spoke about the crucifixion of Jesus. It was here that all of the sins of mankind were placed upon Jesus, and the Father had to "turn away" from God the Son. It was here that Jesus felt separation from the Trinity for the first time in all of eternity.

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." The Romans took his clothes, divided them and cast lots. This was to fulfill the words of David: "They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment." (Psalm 22:18) One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man had done nothing wrong."

Turning to Jesus he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." He proceeded to say, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," fulfilling what David wrote in Psalm 31:5. This was indicate that the Father had full control, and that Jesus' end was near. A little while later, Jesus turned to His mother, Mary, who was standing there with the disciple John. He said to her, "Woman, here is your son." Turning to John He said, "Here is your mother." John took Mary into his home from that time on. Even in death, Jesus wanted to be sure that the woman who cared for Him would in turn be taken care of.

Jesus then 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. This fulfilled another prophecy given by David. Finally, Jesus cried out "It is finished!" Having said this, Jesus gave up His spirit and died on the cross, fulfilling what was written about Him in the Scriptures, and paying for every past, present and future sin of humanity. The guard walked up to Jesus and pierced His side with a spear, to see if He was dead. This was proceeded by a flow of blood and water, a likely sign that His heart had ruptured.

At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks split. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man who was a secret follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. With the help of Nicodemus, using a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds, they took Jesus' body and wrapped it, with the spices, using strips of linen, in accordance with Jewish burial customs. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting opposite the tomb looking on. At this place was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, which Joseph of Arimathea had recently hewn out of rock, a tomb in which no one had been laid.

The next day, after Preparation day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir, we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first." Pilate replied, "Take a guard, go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went to the tomb which was in the garden and made it secure, putting a seal on the stone, as well as posting the guard.

The body of Jesus now laid in the tomb, and in Jerusalem, the disciples were in a deep depression, unsure of where to go or what to do next. They did not understand what Jesus had spoken about His death on many occasions to them, "On the third day He will be raised to life!" With the guard posted, the crucifixion over, and Jesus' body in the tomb, all seemed quite.

This was not the end of Jesus... but the beginning...

*See Sunday's entry

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