FROM THE MOMENT JESUS was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane until His final breath upon the cross on Calvary, He was subjected to a brutality that words cannot possibly describe. His entire life and ministry on earth was about putting the will of the Father above all else; putting the lives of others ahead of His own. His death and resurrection are the foundation on which God established the plan for redemption that was ordained before the foundation of the world. It is the means by which the partition between God and man was torn down. Jesus’ death paid the debt for sin; additionally, when Jesus died He restored man’s relationship with the Father. Jesus, as the Second Adam, repaired the damage done by the First Adam.
Jesus was fully God and fully man—the Word incarnate, inconceivably united personally to flesh and endowed with a rational soul. His human body felt pain, sorrow, fatigue, hunger: all attributes associated with being human. Origen wrote, “Therefore, with this soul acting as a mediator between God and flesh—for it was not possible for the nature of God to be mingled with flesh without a mediator—there was born the God-man [deus-homo], that ‘substance’ being the connecting link which could assume a body without denying its own nature…” (1) (emphasis added). Thomas Torrance wrote, “It is to be noted that the defence [sic] of the complete reality and integrity of the historical humanity of Christ by Nicene theologians was offered mainly on soteriological grounds,” the Doctrine of Soteriology being about salvation.
The Beginning of the End
It was approximately 10PM when Jesus and the disciples left the location of the Last Supper and headed to Gethsemane in the Kidron Valley north-east of Jerusalem. Judas had left earlier to set his betrayal of Jesus in motion. It took Jesus and the eleven others nearly an hour to walk to the garden. Jesus went deeper into the garden and prayed fervently for about three hours. In a typical posture of complete humility and submission, Jesus fell on His face before God. By the third hour, His body was under so much stress that he began to sweat blood. Physicians refer to this condition as hematidrosis, a causing of the blood to mingle with sweat during periods of extreme stress. Capillaries surrounding the sweat glands become so constricted that they rupture. Jesus told the disciples earlier, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me” (Matt. 26:38).
As Jesus knelt in the damp dirt and cried out to the Father, He understood the gravity of what was about to happen. He willingly laid down His life to pay the wages of sin for all who would believe in Him; but He had to face the pain and horror of crucifixion while in the body of a man. He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). There has been much discussion about the “cup” to which Jesus refers. It certainly includes the excruciating pain and suffering He knew was coming. But there is more to this cup than physical suffering. Psalm 75:8 says, “For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs” (emphasis added).
Shortly after 2AM, Jesus got up from the ground and went to His disciples, saying, “Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer at hand” (Matt 26:46). While He was yet speaking to the disciples, Judas arrived with Roman soldiers. To signify which of the men was whom they came to arrest, Judas walked up to Jesus and kissed Him on the cheek. Jesus was arrested and placed in shackles. The soldiers took Him first to the house of Annas (a former high priest) then to the home of the high priest Caiaphas. It was now 5AM. The trial before Pilate, procurator of Judea, began at about 6AM. Pilate found no fault in Jesus and, realizing He was from Galilee, sent Jesus to appear before Herod. King Herod thought Jesus was perhaps crazy but saw no guilt in Him. Again, Jesus appeared before Pilate, around 7AM. Pilate tried to avoid sending Jesus to His death. Hoping to appease the religious leaders, Pilate had Jesus scourged.
Beaten and flogged nearly half to death, Jesus was taken before Pilate again. Pilate desperately wanted to be let out of the responsibility of condemning Jesus to death, and again refused to render a verdict or impose sentence. He tried a compromise; it was customary during the time of the Passover Feast to allow the crowd to ask for one prisoner to be spared. The plan backfired. The crowd insisted that Pilate pardon Barabbas and condemn Jesus in his place, crying out “Give us Barabbas!” and “Crucify! Crucify!” Pilate washed his washed his hands of the matter and condemned Jesus to die by crucifixion. It was 7AM.
Jesus is Crucified
The Roman soldiers stripped Jesus, dressed him in a toga, and fashioned a “crown of thorns” which they pounded onto His head. They gave Him a large stick as a “scepter” and bowed mockingly, crying out “King of the Jews.” The men spat on Jesus, hitting and kicking Him. Jesus was led out of the city, up a long and winding street, and to Golgotha at the southern summit of the Mount of Olives. Jesus kept stumbling and falling, with the cross often crashing down on His battered body. A Roman centurion forced Simon of Cyrene to help Christ carry the cross. Arriving at the location of the crucifixion, the soldiers laid Jesus on the cross and nailed Him there, raising the cross and slamming it into a large hole to hold it upright. Jesus’ body was drenched in His own blood, and His hair was matted. Two thieves were raised up on crosses with Him, one on His left and one on His right. The area around the crucifixion was frenzied and horrific. The crowd and the two thieves mocked Christ, demanding He prove Himself to be the Son of God by coming down from the cross.
From 12PM to 3PM the whole earth became dark as night. At approximately 2PM Jesus groaned from His very gut, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani!” This remark fulfilled the prophecy found in Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Concerning this verse, Derek Kidner writes, “Our Lord’s cry of dereliction (quoting this verse in his native Aramaic) told, it would seem, of an objective reality, namely the punitive separation he accepted in our place, ‘having become a curse for us’ (Gal. 3:13) (2). Kidner stresses that it is not a lapse of faith, nor a broken relationship, but a cry of disorientation as God’s familiar protective presence is withdrawn… and the enemy closes in. The Father had to withdraw His protection from Christ on the cross as He did with Job during Satan’s trial. Stephen Lennox say looking at Psalm 22 from the perspective of the OT believer, the cross will come to mean even more (3). I cannot imagine crying for help in the midst of such serious a difficulty as the bitter distress of being abandoned by God? This is essentially, and strikingly, divine silence.
But oh, what a victory. Tomorrow we will glory in the sweet victory of Christ’s resurrection!
(1) Origen, “On the Two Natures of Christ,” in The Christian Theology Reader, 5th ed. (Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2017), Ibid., 238.
(2) Derek Kidner, Kidner Classic Commentaries: Psalm 1-72 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsityPress, 2008, 1973), 123.
(3) Stephen J. Lennox, Psalms: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (Indianaopolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 1999), 77.