11. The *Crucifixion of Jesus

The *Crucifixion of Jesus

Part 11 of an EasyEnglish Bible Study Course on the Life of Christ


 A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

From Pilate’s *judgement to the *cross

Barrie Wetherill

We now continue the story of the *crucifixion. [Crucifixion is a cruel way to kill someone as a punishment. The Roman soldiers would make a wooden *cross and fasten a man to it with nails. He must hang there until he dies.]

Pilate agreed to do what the Jewish rulers requested. He handed Jesus over to the Roman soldiers. They prepared for Jesus' *crucifixion.


A battle between Jesus and the *Devil

But we need to understand what was going on. It was like a fight between Jesus and the *Devil. The *Devil tried very hard to get Jesus to make a mistake. The *Devil wanted Jesus to say something that was wrong. Or, the *Devil wanted Jesus to do something that was wrong. Anything like this would have damaged God’s purpose completely. We have thought about the difficulties that Jesus had at this time. There were more and more of them, but much worse was to come. The way that Jesus behaved through all these troubles is important. It proves to us who he was. After he saw Jesus, even the Roman officer said, 'Surely, Jesus was the Son of God!’

The Roman soldiers beat Jesus

Before a *crucifixion, the Roman soldiers would beat the prisoner. The Roman soldiers did this in a very cruel way. Jewish law said that you could beat a prisoner no more than 39 times. There was no limit in Roman law. If a prisoner could not breathe, the Roman soldiers helped him to breathe again. Then they continued to beat him. Sometimes men died. Their backs were like a field that a farmer has ploughed. Long pieces of skin hung from their backs. The soldiers beat Jesus like this, by the Roman law.

The Roman soldiers now had some fun in a cruel way. They gave Jesus a crown that they made from sharp branches. (Probably Jesus did not wear this on the *cross. The Roman officer would never have allowed this. It would show that the soldiers were out of his control.)

By this time, Jesus must have looked terrible. The soldiers had beaten him. They had thrown things at him. They had hit him and pulled his beard. Artists have often painted pictures of Jesus on the *cross. But these pictures cannot really show us what Jesus was like by that time. Isaiah’s description is better:

Simon from Cyrene carries Christ's cross

Usually the prisoner had to carry his own *cross. The *cross was two large pieces of wood that the soldiers tied together. Soon they saw that Jesus was too weak to carry his own *cross. The Roman soldiers forced Simon from Cyrene to carry it for him.

Isaiah 52:14 Everyone was afraid of the way that he looked. He did not even look human. Nobody would recognise him as a man.

The people of Jerusalem

Some women stood with the crowds along the road. These women wept for Jesus. He spoke to them. He told them not to weep for him. They should weep for themselves and for their children.

Jesus knew very well that there would be a terrible *judgement for the Jews. There would be a time of punishment from God. Enemies would destroy Jerusalem, not many years later. At that time the Romans killed so many people by *crucifixion that they did not have enough wood. In fact, the Jewish nation has suffered ever since. Jesus had come to rescue people from the punishment for their *sins. He came to show people what God is like. And Jesus came to help us, so that we could know him. Jesus had come to give eternal life [that is, a friendship with God that lasts always]. Most of the Jewish nation would not listen to him. Not long before this time, Jesus had said this:

Even at this time, Jesus thought about other people. He had come to the world to rescue everyone. He even wanted to help the people who refused to be his friends.

On the *cross The hill called Golgotha

At the hill called Golgotha, the soldiers fixed Jesus to the *cross. They stripped the prisoner naked for this. This caused great shame for Jews especially. Then they hammered in the nails. As the soldiers did this, Jesus prayed. He said, 'Father forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:34)

They offered Jesus wine with a drug when he was on the cross. This would have reduced the pain, but he refused it. He needed to be aware of everything to the end. There were more tests to come.

The way that the soldiers fixed Jesus to the *cross made *prophecy come true. A thousand years earlier, David wrote Psalm 22. It is an exact *prophecy of the *crucifixion. These words from Psalm 22 describe exactly what happened.

Death by *crucifixion

*Crucifixion was a very cruel way to die. There were the painful injuries, the hot sun, the insects. Worse than all this, the weight of the man's own body was very heavy. The man had to struggle for every breath. At last, the man’s own weight would pull his body right down so that he could not breathe. Sometimes the *cross had a part where a foot could rest, to support the weight. Then that would break off. The purpose of this was to make the man suffer longer. Usually, the man would die because he could not breathe. It would take several days. *Crucifixion was a painful, slow death. All the time the angry crowd would shout insults.

Jesus' clothes

The soldiers usually took the prisoner’s clothes, and cut them up. They would share the cloth. But Jesus wore one long shirt made from one piece of cloth. The person who made it did not sew together separate pieces of cloth. From the neck to the feet, this shirt was whole. The soldiers did not want to spoil this shirt. So, they did not cut it up. Instead, they played a game to win it. In this way, they made words from the Bible come true (Psalm 22:18, John 19:24).

Matthew 23:37,38 'People of Jerusalem! People of Jerusalem! You kill the *prophets. You throw stones at those who come to you. Often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a mother bird gathers her young ones under her wings. But you did not want this. See! Everything that you have is broken.’

Psalm 22:16-18 It is as if dogs surround me. Wicked people are all round me. They put nails in my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. People look at me and stare.

The notice above the *cross

Pilate had written a notice which the soldiers fixed to the *cross. The notice read:

The notice was in three languages, Greek, Latin and Hebrew. Perhaps the people who wrote that meant it as a joke. God made sure that the notice was correct! Perhaps it made some people think about the spread of the good news about Jesus all over the world.

The crowds insult Jesus

The crowds always insulted a prisoner on a *cross. It was like a game to them. The Bible records these words:

These words remind us of the time when the Devil tested Jesus three years earlier (Matthew 4:3). The Devil said then, 'If you are the Son of God, save yourself. Make these stones into bread.’ In fact, these insults made *prophecy come true. Psalm 22 has these words:

'Nobody respects me. Everyone who sees me laughs at me' says the Psalm. There was no escape. Some of the words show how the crowd tried to test Jesus. 'Let your God deliver you now.' Evil people have said such words many times, when they killed Christians. But those Christians died because they trusted Jesus. Jesus himself suffered the same insult. The crowd did not know that they cried out the very words of Psalm 22:8. See Matthew 27:39-43. Remember also the shouts and cruel jokes in court. Remember the cruelty of the soldiers. Remember Herod's insults.

Peter wrote about the behaviour of Jesus at this time. Jesus did not accuse anyone or say anything in anger. He did not even speak in *judgement.

The two criminals who were dying at the same time as Jesus

Jesus hung on the *cross between two criminals. Probably they had tried to begin a revolution. One criminal started to shout at Jesus, but the other criminal stopped him. Luke records what he said:

Luke 23:40-42But the other man stopped him. He said, 'You ought to be afraid of God. You are getting the same punishment as Jesus. We deserve to die but this man [Jesus] has done nothing wrong.' Then he said to Jesus, '*Lord, remember me when you come into your *kingdom.'

'The King of the Jews’.

Luke 23:35,36And the people stood and watched. But even the rulers who were with them laughed at him. They said, 'He saved others. Let him save himself if he is the *Messiah. He is not the one whom God has chosen!' The soldiers also laughed at him. They came and offered him sour wine.

Matthew 27:39 And those who passed by cursed him. They shook their heads.

Matthew 27:43 He trusted in God. Let God save him now if he wants him. He said, 'I am the Son of God.’

Psalm 22:6-8. But I am like a worm. [A worm has no legs, and crawls on the ground.] I do not feel like a man. Men blame me and nobody respects me. Everyone who sees me laughs at me. They insult me and shake their heads. They say, 'He trusted in the *Lord. Let the *Lord rescue him. Let the *Lord save him, since he has delight in him!'

1 Peter 2:21-24 To this God has called you. Christ also suffered, for you. He was a model of how you should behave. You must do what he did. 'He did nothing that was wrong. He said nothing that was wrong.' When people insulted him, he did not insult them. When he suffered, he said nothing. He trusted himself to God who *judges in the right way. Jesus took our *sins in his own body on the *cross. This means that *sin has no power over us. We can live the way that God wants us to live, without *sin. Jesus suffered for us so that this could happen.

The way that Jesus had behaved on the *cross had done this. It had helped this criminal to *repent and believe in Jesus. Jesus promised him that he would be with him in paradise that very day. [Paradise is another name for heaven, a perfect place, where God lives.]

Jesus speaks to his mother

Women who were relatives of prisoners usually came to a *crucifixion. There was no danger for them. Mary (the mother of Jesus) was there, together with some other women. Jesus knew that his mother would suffer to see him on the *cross. He knew that there might be trouble for her afterwards. So he spoke to her and to the *apostle John. He pointed to John and said, 'Woman, look at your son!' Then he said to John, 'Look at your mother!' (John 19:26-27) So, Jesus told John to look after Mary, as if she was his mother.

Even at this time, Jesus still cared for other people.

The darkness

The *crucifixion of Jesus began at 9.00 a.m. [That is, 9 o'clock in the morning.] The place where it took place was called Golgotha. For three hours, Golgotha was a busy place, with the soldiers, the crowds and the Jewish rulers there.

But from noon, for three hours until the death of Jesus, there was darkness (Matthew 27:45).

The reason for the darkness while Jesus was on the *cross

There is no natural reason for this darkness. Jesus died during the Feast of Passover. [This was a very important holy holiday for the Jews. They remembered the time when God rescued them from Egypt.] The Feast of Passover always happened at the time of the full moon. An eclipse cannot happen at full moon. [An eclipse is a rare event when the moon hides the light from the sun.] Also, an eclipse would not last for three hours.

There had been darkness on the earth before. When God punished Pharaoh there had been darkness. It is a sign of God’s punishment. God shows us that we have done wrong. He sometimes uses physical signs to do this. (Joel 2:30,32, Amos 5:18, Revelation 6:12-17).And on the *cross, Jesus was suffering the punishment for our *sins.

Jesus calls out to God

At this time, Jesus suffered great pain. He called out to God with a loud cry.

This was an experience which no human has ever had. Jesus was now quite separate from God. The darkness was a sign of God’s *judgement on *sin. At this time Jesus was carrying the *sin of us all. Notice that Jesus did not say 'God, where are you?’ He said 'My God, why?’ This is not the cry of a relationship that has ended. Jesus felt that God was no longer protecting him. But he cried out to God in trust. Paul tells us the reason for this.

Some people in the crowd laughed about Jesus’ cry. The first word that he said sounds a little like the name of Elijah. They said that perhaps he was calling to Elijah for help.

Matthew 26:46 At about 3.00 p.m. [that is, 3 o'clock in the afternoon] Jesus cried out with a loud voice. He said, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' [These words are in the language called Hebrew.] That means, 'My God, My God, why have you left me alone?'

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made Jesus, who did not *sin, to take our *sin on himself. This was so that we could be right with God.


The effects of *crucifixion

Finally, near to his death, Jesus’ mouth was very dry. He cried out, 'I need a drink’ (John 19:28). This is one of the effects of *crucifixion. Old books describe other men who died slowly on a *cross. These men called out for water to the people who passed. Again, the *prophets wrote about this, and Psalm 22 has these words:

Let us think about the meaning of these words: 'I spill out like water' – Jesus was extremely tired.

'They have pulled every bone in my body apart' – A very exact description of the effects of *crucifixion

'My heart has melted inside me' – Jesus was nearly unconscious. 'My tongue sticks in my mouth' – His mouth was completely dry.

'I have no strength left, like a baked pot' – he felt as dry as a pot that men make. They bake it in a hot oven until it is totally dry.

The *prophet wrote all of this 1000 years before the event. But these physical sufferings were not the greatest pain. Jesus felt that God had left him alone. That was when Jesus felt the greatest pain. That was when Jesus took your *sin and my *sin, and made them his own.

'This is the end'

Jesus gave one great final cry. 'It is finished!’ [That means, 'this is the end'.] He had finished the work that the Father [God] had given him to do. His work was complete. Our *salvation was complete. And so finally, Jesus offered up his *spirit and died.

The soldiers did not break Jesus' legs

Jesus died much sooner than he should have done. Two criminals were with him. They were still alive when he died. The authorities wanted the *crucifixion over. They wanted to take away the bodies before the
abbath [their holy day] began. It would begin at 6.00 p.m.. [That is, 6 o'clock in the late afternoon, when nightfall began.] To make the men die more quickly, soldiers came to break the legs of the two criminals (John 19:31-33). Then the criminals could not continue to push up on their legs to breathe. When they could not breathe, they died.

But Jesus was already dead, so the soldiers did not break his legs. This made a *prophecy come true. A *prophet had said that no bone of his should be broken. But, the soldier stuck a spear into Jesus’ side. [A spear is like a long, sharp sword.] Blood and water came out from Jesus (John 19:34). This showed that Jesus was already dead.

Jesus carried the *sin of the world

Pilate was surprised that Jesus died so soon (Mark 15:44). But Jesus carried the *sin of the world on that *cross. He suffered so much in these last three hours. That was what really killed him.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus bury Jesus' body

Two members of the Jewish council, Joseph (from Arimathea) and Nicodemus, asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. [The Jewish council was a group of Jewish leaders.] Nicodemus was the man who had earlier come to talk to Jesus by night.

Joseph and Nicodemus took the body down from the *cross and buried it.

Psalm 22:14,15I spill out like water. They have pulled every bone in my body apart. My heart has melted inside me. I have no strength left, like a baked pot. My tongue sticks in my mouth. You have brought me to the dust of death.

Luke 23:46And Jesus cried out with a loud voice. He said, 'Father [God], I give my *spirit to you.' After that, he breathed for the last time.

A guard at Jesus' grave

The Jewish council asked for a guard at the grave. The Jewish rulers were afraid that Jesus' *disciples might try to steal the body. The Jewish rulers did not want anyone to pretend that Jesus was not really dead. They did not want any more problems with Jesus! They did not realise that Jesus would become alive again very soon.

Jesus would be alive, because Jesus defeated death itself! And later, Jesus would go up to *heaven.

The curtain: the whole earth shakes

Three o'clock

Jesus died at 3.00 p.m.. [That is, 3 o'clock in the afternoon.]

This was the very time that the Jews killed the Passover Lamb in the temple. [The temple was the special building in Jerusalem where the Jews met to give honour to God. The Passover Lamb was a young sheep. The Jews killed the lamb to remember that God had rescued their people. They had been slaves in Egypt. But God freed them. And God saved them from death.]

This time is also important to us. Jesus is like our Passover Lamb, because he died for us.

Also, at the same moment, the curtain of the Temple tore. It tore from its top, down to the ground. This curtain protected the most important part of the Temple (Matthew 27:51). This shows us that we can now be close to God. God loves us like a father does. We can now be his children. Jesus made this possible. When Jesus died, he paid for our *sin.

Also at this moment, the whole earth shook. Many ancient *prophets became alive again. Many people saw them.

The way that Jesus behaved in court and on the *cross, was wonderful. When the Roman officer there saw this, and the other events, he said, 'Surely, this man was the Son of God.’

Our reply

On that *cross Jesus carried your *sins and mine. God has never left anyone else in the way that he left Jesus then.

Our *sin became part of Jesus. He felt that God left him alone. Jesus seemed to suffer on the *cross more than other people did. The Romans were surprised when he died so soon. But His real pain was the result of your *sin and my *sin. He carried our *sins and that made him feel completely alone.

How can we reply to what he has done for us? There is only one way.

Jesus meant that we must not think about our own life first. We must not do what we want to do. We must think about God. We must live as he wants us to live.

Many people here in Britain think that it is easy to be a Christian. And I hope that their lives will be easy. But this is not what the Bible says. What Jesus says is difficult. He wants us to trust him completely. Ask yourself this question: 'Do you trust Jesus completely?' If not, you are playing a very dangerous game.

Galatians 3:13 Christ rescued us from the punishment of the law. He took the punishment for us. The Bible says, 'God punishes everyone who hangs on a *cross.'

Matthew 16:24-26 'If anyone would come to me, he must give up his own desires. He must take up his *cross. [That is, he must be ready to suffer.] He must follow me. Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for me will find it. A man may gain the whole world, but lose his *soul. That would be terrible. A man's *soul is more important than anything else that he could gain.’

We should think again about what Jesus suffered for us. Then let us all, because of him, pray to God. Let us ask that his *Holy Spirit would come to us. He will change the way that we live. He will help us to obey completely whatever God asks us to do. And if we are not sure about anything, he will help us. He will give us no inner *peace, until we find our *peace in him.

Some words of Isaiah, and of the *apostle Paul are a suitable end to this chapter:

Read: Psalm 22 Word List

apostle ~ the 12 men whom Jesus chose to be his helpers. He chose them to teach other people about him. Christians also call Paul an apostle.

cross ~ two pieces of wood fixed together. Jesus died on a cross, and so the cross is now the sign of the church.

crucifixion ~ a cruel way to kill someone as a punishment. The Roman soldiers would make a wooden *cross and fasten a man to it with nails. He must hang there until he dies.

Devil ~ another name for Satan, who opposes God.

disciples ~ people who believe in Jesus and obey him. The first disciples were the 12 men whom he chose to be with him.

Holy Spirit ~ God’s Spirit, sent by Jesus to help people.

judge ~ decide if a person is good or bad.

judgement ~ the decision about whether something or someone is good or bad.

kingdom; land that a king rules. The 'kingdom of God' means all the people who love and obey God.

Lord ~ another name for God or Jesus, which shows that he has authority over everything.

Messiah ~ Messiah means the same as Christ. That is, the one whom God chose as *Israel's special king. God forgives us because Jesus, our Messiah, suffered the punishment for our evil deeds.

peace ~ calm, especially in our *spirits. Before we trusted God, we were his enemies. But now, we are his friends.

prophet ~ a person who can tell other people what God wants prophecy ~ words that a *prophet speaks.

repent ~ be sorry for wrong things that you have said or done. You decide to love God. You start to obey him.

salvation ~ when God saves us from the results of our wrong beliefs and actions sins ~ wrong things that we do or say. soul ~ the part of us that that we cannot see. This part is in us during life, and lives on after death. spirit ~ the part of a person which is alive, and which we cannot see.

Isaiah 53:6Like sheep, we have all wandered away. We have each gone our own way, but the *Lord has put all our *sins on him [the *Messiah].

Romans 5:1,2Therefore, our trust in God rescues us. We have *peace with God through our *Lord Jesus Christ. Because of him, we now know God as our father.

Romans 8:1Now, nobody can accuse the people who belong to Christ Jesus.