36 Jesus on the Cross

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. Jesus on the Way to Golgotha (Before 9:00 a.m.)

Scripture: Matthew 27:31-34; Mark 15:20-23; Luke 23:26-33; and John 19:17

Notes: The Romans intended crucifixion to be 1) unspeakably cruel; 2) mercilessly lingering (men would often last a day or more on the cross); 3) inescapably public (again, to hinder any seditious impulse in the citizenry); and 4) publicly certifiable (the death had to occur visibly and undeniably on the cross so that the rumor would not get started that the seditionist had somehow survived and the rebellion should go on). Thus, crucifixion was always on a low hill outside a main city gate (because a gate is a bottleneck – a person going into/out of the city must pass that way). Jesus is forced to carry the horizontal piece of the cross to the place of execution, just outside a main gate on the north of the city of Jerusalem.

B. The First Three Hours on the Cross (9:00 a.m.-Noon)

Scripture: Matthew 27:35-44; Mark 15:24-32; Luke 23:33-43; and John 19:18-27

Notes: Jesus is crucified between two criminals. Sunlight remains. The soldiers gamble for Jesus’s garments (in fulfillment of Psalms 22:18). The inscription is affixed amid much scoffing. Jesus speaks three times: 1) to His heavenly Father on behalf of His tormentors: “Father, forgive them,” 2) to the repentant thief: “Today you shall be with me in paradise,” and 3) to His mother and to John: “Woman, behold thy son.”

C. The Final Three Hours on the Cross (Noon-3:00 p.m.)

Scripture: Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46; and John 19:28-30

Notes: God draws a supernatural darkness over the scene. Jesus, as the Lamb of God, is “forsaken” (i.e., judicially dis-fellowshipped, rejected) by the Father, suffering the agony and torment of spiritual death (i.e., separation from the Father) on behalf of fallen men. (It was the prospect of this spiritual separation that had so horrified Jesus as He contemplated the cross.) Jesus is silent until late in the three hours, and then He speaks four times: 1) in agony, “My God, why…,” 2) to those standing by: “I thirst!” (Jesus had something more to say, but His mouth and throat were so parched by the ordeal of crucifixion that He did not have the physical strength to say it; thus this request for moisture for His lips), 3) to a breathlessly waiting world, a cry of sublime victory: “It is finished,” and 4) having completed the awful task: “Father, into thy hands….” The Prince of Life lays down His physical life for three dark days.

D. Physical Phenomena at the Death of Jesus

Scripture: Matthew 27:51-56; Mark 15:38-41; and Luke 23:50-54

Notes: These events include the following: the rending of the veil in the temple; tremors in the earth that split rocks; the resuscitation (return to mortal life) of some who had (recently?) died and been buried in the regions of Jerusalem. These physical signs drew many onlookers to faith, including a centurion (Roman soldier given leadership over 100 troops) who had been assigned to the detail conducting this crucifixion.

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).