Jesus Betrayed, Arrested, and Crucified
Read: Matthew 27:1-61
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2 And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.
Judas Hangs Himself
3 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they took counsel and bought with them the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me.”
Jesus Before Pilate
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
The Crowd Chooses Barabbas
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Jesus Is Mocked
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
The Death of Jesus
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Jesus Is Buried
57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
Some Background Information
Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, was most likely named not because of the shape of the landscape but because skulls were prevalent there. Early Christian and pagan writers such as Justin Martyr, Juvenal, and Seneca give horrific detail about the act of crucifixion, stating that the flesh of bodies of those crucified was often consumed by birds and wild animals, with the bones left to fall to the ground. Nowhere in the Gospels is Golgotha called a hill.
There is some evidence that crucifixion derived from the Assyrian practice of impaling rebels and captives on long stakes. In contrast, the reference to being hung on a tree in Deut. 21:22 seems to be an act of public humiliation after the condemned had already been executed (cf. 1 Sam. 31:10). Crucifixion was adopted by the Greeks (including Alexander the Great) and the Phoenicians and was also used by some Jews to execute rebels and political opponents.
The Romans mastered the practice of crucifixion, employing it to execute non-citizens, slaves, and (on occasion) even citizens who had run afoul of the empire. It was reserved especially for robbers, traitors, and persons condemned for insurrection. For instance, 2,000 Jews who had revolted against Rome at the death of Herod the Great were crucified, and mass crucifixions, with bodies in grotesque shapes, filled the perimeter of Jerusalem during the Roman siege in AD70. Josephus called crucifixion “the most miserable of deaths.”
The act of crucifixion typically included four stages: the condemned was scourged; he was forced to carry his crossbar (Lat. patibulum) to the site of execution; he was fastened to the crossbar by nails; finally, his crossbar was affixed to an upright beam that was already set into the ground. A great deal of variation was possible, much of which was intended to increase the suffering or humiliation of the condemned. Nails were driven through the hands or, more likely, the wrists, and also through the ankles. Sometimes ropes were used in place of nails. Josephus mentions one instance in which three people were removed while still clearly alive on the cross, and all received significant medical care; two died anyway, testifying to the intensity of the suffering involved.
Persons could be crucified upright or upside down, with limbs outstretched in a variety of positions. Usually the person crucified was naked, though a loincloth was at times allowed. Crosses were often low to the ground to allow passersby to add to the agony. Animals and insects were drawn to the blood. Death was often drawn out, and certainly agonizing. The cause of death was likely due to a variety of factors, including asphyxiation, shock, loss of blood, and perhaps heart failure. A victim’s legs could be broken so that he would be unable to push himself up to take a breath, hastening death (John 19:31).
An excavated burial cave from Givat Hamivtar north of Jerusalem contained an ossuary (bone box) with bones of a man who had a nail, 5–6 inches (12.7–15.2 cm) long, driven through his heel bone. Wood attached to the bone indicates that the upright of his cross was from an olive tree. Constantine reportedly abolished Roman crucifixion in the fourth century AD.
*The historical information above is taken from the online ESV Study Bible.
A Reflection from Fr. Sean
It is difficult for me even to read the historical accounts of crucifixion. As dry and distant as history can make things, this particular form of torture and execution does not stay on the page. The accounts of the Gospel writers are accurate, but subdued compared to all the agony that is accounted for in other sources. It is hard to get beyond the agony and the pain. We ought not diminish it by any means but the Gospels look to other points in the bigger picture. What darkness in the human heart can cause someone to mock another being crucified? How is it that a hardened centurion can see Jesus was the son of God? Why is the temple torn or does the earth quake and tombs open at Jesus' death? The death of Jesus was a voluntary means for something else. It was the ultimate sign of God's love and the degree to which he would go to save a wicked people. As we sang last night "What wondrous love is this?" Meditate on it today. Today truly is the Good Friday not because of the goodness of death and the cross, but what Jesus made them mean to all who believe - that we might become children of God.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, we beseech you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.