Pilate tried again to persuade the crowd that he should release to them Jesus, but again they cried for His blood. Finally, at about 6 a.m. he delivered Jesus over to the mob and they took Him and led Him away to be crucified.
Immediately, upon His release from Pilate, soldiers seized our Savior, stripped Him, put upon Him a scarlet robe and pressed into His forehead again the crown of thorns, and they put into His right hand a reed or mock scepter; then they began to say, “Hail, King of the Jews.” Spitting upon Him, they took the reed from His hand and smote Him on the head. They mocked Him more, took off the scarlet robe and replaced it with Jesus’ own garment, then led Him to Calvary.
To the place of the skull He was then led, followed by a great company of people. Already weakened by the brutal scourging, Jesus soon fell under the heavy load of the cross that He bore, and one Simon, a Cyrenian, was conscripted by the soldiers to carry the cross on up the hill to Calvary.
Golgotha was the site of the crucifixion, and shortly before 9 a.m. on Friday, the sinless Son of God was stretched out upon a rough-hewn cross; nails were driven through the palms of each hand while one long spike secured both of His feet to the upright stake. The Roman cross of crucifixion was raised by wicked hands high above the earth, then dropped with a sickening thud into a hole upon the hill while every bone in Jesus’ body was torn and twisted in their sockets. Malefactors were put on crosses on either side of the Savior, and from nine ‘til noon the hill was crowned with three cross-bearing bodies, two thieves and the man on the middle cross, the God man.
Earlier all the Disciples had fled and forsook their Master, but by now word was out that He was on the cross, and one by one many had made their way back to Calvary to watch and weep. Mary, His mother, stood by His cross, as did Mary the wife of Cleophas and Mary Magdalene. John the Beloved Disciple stood beside Mary the mother of Jesus.
From nine ‘til noon, Jesus spoke three times from His place above the earth. First, His prayer of forgiveness was uttered: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Next, to the thief who in a dying breath asked for mercy, Jesus said, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise” and finally, gazing upon the sorrowing heart of a sad mother He said to John, “Son, behold thy mother.”
While the hot sun beat upon Jesus for three hours, He spoke only three times and each time not for Himself but on behalf of someone else!
At noon, the sun became dark, and for three hours the heavens hid their faces as it were from the shameful scenes on Calvary.
At about 3 p.m. Jesus’ words pierced through and broke the silence as He cried, “Eli, Eli Lama Sabachthani,” “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Shortly following that, Jesus said again, “I thirst.”
A vinegar-soaked sponge was held to His mouth on a stick, and when He had received it, He cried with a loud voice, “It is finished!” And then, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.”
With those words Jesus gave up the ghost and died. It was Matthew who recorded that at that precise moment, the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom, the earth quaked, the rocks were rent in two, and the graves of many of the bodies of Old Testament saints that had died were opened and they were seen walking through the streets of Jerusalem.
The darkest deed of history was done! Jesus had died; had died a criminal’s death, and the heavens blushed while the earth convulsed.
One of the Roman soldiers who had cast lots for His garments got on his knees and confessed Jesus as the Son of God, while His faithful followers, including Mary Magdalene, came to minister to His body. Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, had received permission from Pilate to bury the body of his Lord, and the body was taken from the cross by Pilate’s orders and wrapped in a clean, spice-laden linen burial cloth and placed in Joseph’s tomb, a tomb which had been hewn out of a rock. Nicodemus, the ruler of the Pharisees who had come to Jesus by night, anointed Jesus’ body with spices and perfumes. A great stone was rolled to the door of the sepulcher, and Mary Magdalene and the other women sat by the door to keep watch.
Saturday, the day after His burial, the vile chief priests went back to Pilate and begged of him a detachment of Roman soldiers to guard the tomb, for, as they remembered and reminded Pilate, He had said, “After three days I will rise again.” Afraid that Jesus’ disciples would secretly steal His body away, they sought the Roman watch and secured it from Pilate.
It was early—about dawn but still dark—on Sunday morning, the first day of the week, that Mary Magdalene and another Mary stole secretly to the tomb with sweet spices with which to anoint their Master’s body. Wondering who would roll away the stone for them, their question was soon forgotten as they came and saw the stone had been rolled away already.
What the women did not know at that time was that in the wee hours of the morning, a good while before daylight, God had shaken the tomb with an earthquake, and the angel of the Lord had descended from Heaven to roll back that great seal. The Roman soldiers fell to the ground and were as dead men, and the angel of the Lord sat down upon the stone. Jesus arose from His burial place triumphant over death and Hell, and two angels from Heaven came and folded neatly the linen cloth that had been wrapped around His body and the napkin that had been wrapped around His head.
(Read the “You and God” special Easter Sunday installment for the conclusion)