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Salvation is a free gift from God, isn’t it? Listen to this lesson to learn the intense and deeply disturbing price the Lord Jesus Christ paid when He took the punishment for our sins. Follow as Jesus struggles to carry His cross on the road to Golgotha and hear how He gave a compassionate warning to the “daughters of Jerusalem”. Find out what horrors transpired as He was nailed to the cross and how our response should be to live for Him to bring Him glory.
The combined Scripture reading for today is available in the Notes link below.
The Public Humiliation of Jesus
Matthew 27:31–35; Luke 23:26–33
Matthew Lesson #184
January 21, 2018
“Father, we’re thankful that we can be here today to be informed, encouraged, taught, and strengthened by Your Word. An opportunity to pause, slow down, and reflect upon those hours that occurred on that day when our Lord went to the cross to pay for our sins.
“The opportunity to think about just exactly what transpired, and how it all led up to a perfect salvation, a salvation that paid for every single sin that we have ever committed, every sin in the history of the world, a salvation that would be offered free of charge, at no cost to us, though it cost our Lord so very much.
“Father, as we take this time to pause and work through the Gospel accounts of our Lord’s crucifixion, we pray that You might open the eyes of our soul that we might understand more fully what You have accomplished for us, and what it cost our Lord.
“We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bible to Matthew 27:31-35, our base passage. I’ve been going through this final period in our Lord’s life on the earth during the time of the incarnation, slowing down to give us a full picture of what He is going through by combining the accounts that we have in the four Gospels.
That gives us a full picture. It takes a little longer to go through, but it helps us to put all of these parts together, so that we can understand it a little better.
Jesus has now gone through six trials: three religious trials and then three civil or criminal trials. He has finished the sixth trial by Pilate, and Pilate has now acquiesced to the pressure of the religious leaders and the multitudes that have been ginned up by the religious leaders to oppose anything less than crucifixion.
We hear the crowd screaming for crucifixion. Their bloodlust is up, and they will be happy with nothing less than the death of our Lord.
The Roman soldiers have begun to beat Him, and to scourge Him, first with the Roman flagrum, which would have ripped the skin off of His back and dug deeply into the muscles of His back and His sides as the straps of leather with stone and metal embedded in them would have wrapped around His body and just ripped the flesh and produced a significant amount of bleeding at this particular point.
Then they have ridiculed Him. They have mocked Him and derided Him. They have made a crown of thorns that they have forced down on His head, which would have again brought more bleeding. Their beatings have left His face unrecognizable. He has been brutally punished and tortured, as they prepare to lead Him away to crucifixion.
John 19:6, “… when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ ” And Pilate who has washed his hands of this says, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.”
He is faultless. Even Pilate saw that. He was without sin; He was being taken to the Cross with no legal basis whatsoever.
The religious leaders claimed that he had committed blasphemy by claiming to be the Son of God, claiming to be the King of the Jews. Indeed, He was the Son of God. He was the King of the Jews. He is the Son of God today and the King of the Jews; and He went to the Cross for what He is.
In John 19:15, the crowds cry out, scream out, literally, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” They reject His claim to be the King, which has been the theme in Matthew: that Jesus is presented as the King of the Jews. They reject that saying, “… We have no king but Caesar.”
John 19:16, Pilate “… delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.” This is where we pick up our narrative this morning.
Have you ever given much time to just reflecting upon what is going on step-by-step, stage by stage during this time and throughout this particular day? Here we have Jesus:
- He is the Son of Man
- He is also called the Second Adam
- He is everything that a human being was designed to be by God
- He was designated the One who would receive and be given the kingdom, according to Daniel 7.
Yet He has been rejected by His people. John 1:11, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” He was rejected by most of them; accepted by only a few.
He is also the Son of God: the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God who rules over the universe. He holds it together in His deity. He came to the earth to demonstrate His love for mankind and to pay for the sins of the world.
Yet He is rejected, He’s maligned, He’s beaten, He’s tortured, He’s ridiculed, and He is sentenced to one of the most torturous and painful deaths ever devised in human history. All to pay for your sins and mine.
This morning, I want to begin to walk step-by-step through the different stages of the crucifixion. In the accounts in Matthew, in Mark, in Luke, and in John, we see certain similarities, but each author, in relation to their own purposes, will focus in on different things, different aspects, add different perspectives related to their particular focus and their particular purpose.
Often as we read through these accounts, we think there might be some contradictions, things are a little different. Sometimes they’re told in different order because some of these events happened simultaneously.
One writer might list them in one order, another writer may list them in another order, but actually they’re just saying this happened, and this happened, and this happened, and they’re not giving a chronological sequence. They are simply describing what has happened.
I was impressed many years ago when we had Dr. Fruchtenbaum here, and he taught through the Life of the Messiah from a Jewish Perspective, and he identified 32 different stages in this period from the time they lead Jesus away from Pilate until the completion of the crucifixion.
I sat down in Kiev about four days ago, started reading through the Gospel accounts and started making my own list of the stages. I got through about the first 20—I haven’t completed it. I compared the first 20 with his and was surprised that they’re pretty much identical. The only difference is that he tends to focus on Mark as a priority Gospel. I focus on Matthew and Luke to give the chronology, and so our order is a little different, but the events are still basically the same.
We’re going to begin this morning with the first part of this—which is the Procession to Golgotha—stages one through five.
Look at the picture that I put up—I was actually looking for someone that had an accurate picture; I couldn’t find one. The reason it’s not accurate is because the one who was crucified—the criminal, the one who was charged—carried the patibulum, which is the cross piece.
He didn’t carry the whole cross. The stipes, which was the vertical piece, was already in place, and so they just carried the cross piece. I couldn’t find that anywhere.
But it gives the impression that there were crowds; the streets were lined with people. There were the women who are weeping and wailing and lamenting for Jesus, as well as the two other criminals. They’re in this procession as well, so these probably were professional mourners.
Luke is the only one who brings that element out. We must understand how weak our Lord was at this point, having gone through the beatings and the whippings and everything else, that He would not have been able to carry that cross for very long.
In the first stage, we simply read in each Gospel account the simple sentence, “They led Jesus out to be crucified.” They don’t embellish it; they don’t go into macabre detail. It’s very simple. As I read the accounts again and again, I’m impressed at the economy of words used by the Holy Spirit. How simple the description is because the content of it is what becomes so powerful.
Matthew 27:31, “… and led Him away to be crucified.”
Mark 15:20 uses a little different word, same base, they “… led Him out to be crucified”—that is, out from the Praetorium.
John 19:16, “Then they took Jesus and led Him away.” He uses the same verb that Mark uses, APAGO, in the Greek.
We’re going to have to take a few moments to get adjusted to the geography of the city of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. We will come back to this time and again dealing with different aspects of this event.
The map itself is facing north, going north this way towards the top. To the east there is the Temple complex. Just to the northeast of the Temple complex is the Antonia Fortress. The scene of all of our action is on the western side of what is now the Old City of Jerusalem, and it is surrounding this area here where you have Herod’s Fortress as well as the Praetorium.
Just to the north of that, following this yellow line here, it describes the wall that is called Josephus’ Second North Wall that he speaks about. It comes from the north to the south here, makes a corner here—this is very important to determining the location of Golgotha—and then comes south, and then it joins Josephus’ First North Wall. That’s important.
This purple wall here is Josephus’ Third Wall. It’s not built until AD 41. Not realizing that has caused a lot of confusion down through the centuries. It wasn’t determined until about the 1970s that this purple wall was not the wall at the time of Jesus. As the Scripture says, Jesus is crucified outside the wall, which is this wall that is outlined in yellow here. So this action is taking place here.
Now if you come from a Roman Catholic background, you’re familiar with the Way of Tears, the Via Dolorosa, built on the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. And on that tradition, Jesus is brought to the Antonia Fortress where they identified that, and that was an older identification. Many people agreed with that, that this is where the Praetorium was located. This is where Pilate would have tried Jesus.
That is not the view anymore. It has been discovered that the Praetorium was located near Herod’s Fortress over here. This is near, if you’ve been to Jerusalem today, this is near the Jaffa Gate on the west side of Jerusalem.
The Via Dolorosa has Jesus coming from the Antonia Fortress. In fact, if you walk the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, there is an archway there, and embedded in that are the words ECCE HOMO, “Behold the Man,” marking the site where they believe Pilate made this statement to the crowd.
I don’t think any of that is accurate; this is a much longer route. Jesus would walk from here, then He would make a turn. There’s a street there that goes by a really great falafel place and a great pizza place, then it makes another turn right about here and goes down and takes you to what is today the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
I believe that on the basis of what I’ve been reading in recent years that the Praetorium is located here. This isn’t nearly as long a distance from the Praetorium to Golgotha, probably 200 to 300 yards at the most, probably closer to 200 yards.
This is the area we’re going to zero in on right now. In these discussions, the Praetorium is here, Jesus would have been taken away or out from the Praetorium and then walked through this gate here and walked north to the location of Golgotha where He was crucified.
This is a three-dimensional type portrayal of a map. This shows the same area. Here’s Golgotha. Here’s the Praetorium down in this section right here, and so they would’ve walked Jesus this way through this gate, outside the city wall to Golgotha, where He was to be crucified.
We do have extra-biblical sources that have mentioned Jesus and His crucifixion. They are listed in Darrell Bock’s commentary on Luke.
- There is the writing of Mara bar Serapion who wrote about AD 73: “For what advantage did the Jews gain by the death of their wise king, because from that same time, their kingdom was taken away.”
- Then you have a statement from Josephus, which is frequently quoted, who wrote, “Pilate, upon hearing Him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned Him to be crucified.”
- The statements by Agapius in Book of the Title just basically summarizes what Josephus said.
- There is the Roman historian, Tacitus, who in his Annals says this name—that is “Christian”—originates from “… Christus, who was sentenced to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.”
- The Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin 43—this is the Jewish commentary on the Mishnah—states “On the eve of the Passover they hanged Jesus the Nazarene and a herald went out in front of him for 40 days saying …”—no, that’s not accurate—“… He is going to be stoned because He practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who knows anything in His favor let him come and plea on His behalf, but not having found anything in his favor, they hanged him on the eve of Passover.”
They don’t agree with the Bible in details or with each other in details, but the point is they all agree that Jesus was a historical figure, that the crucifixion happened, that it happened at the time of Pontius Pilate. This is affirmation.
You will hear some today who say Jesus wasn’t historical, Jesus didn’t exist, prove this, and here are five contemporary sources that all affirm He existed and that He was crucified at the time of Pontius Pilate.
As Jesus is led away to be crucified: we learn from Plutarch that it was the standard procedure for every criminal who was to be executed to carry his own cross on his back. That wasn’t the full cross, just the cross beam—the patibulum—and that would be the instrument of his own punishment according to Plutarch.
Usually the patibulum was laid across the back of the neck or shoulders. According to one writer, they would carry it like this, bent over, carrying it like a sack of potatoes on their back. Then there are others, and you will see artist’s depictions where it’s tied, going across the shoulders. I’m not sure there’s going to ever be any consensus on just exactly how that transpired. But Jesus could not carry it for long; He was physically too weak.
In the second stage, we learned that the soldiers grab a man from the crowd named Simon of Cyrene, and they conscript him to carry Jesus’ cross.
Luke 23:26, “Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.”
If you remember what I showed you on the map, outside of that wall there is a gate and there was a road that came in from the west. As travelers came into the city, they would be walking by this place of execution. That was the whole point in the Roman system was to crucify those who are threats to the power of Rome and to make their death, their execution as horrible as it possibly could be, and do it in a place where people would see it, and that it would be a lesson to them.
Simon was a Cyrenian. Cyrenaica was an area that is Libya today; Cyrene was located on the coast. It was a Roman colony, a Roman city. He was a Jew from that area, and he had come to Jerusalem to worship at Passover.
There is an interesting statement made by Mark in relation to him: Mark says that he’s the father of Alexander and Rufus. That wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference for most of us, but Mark is writing to the church in Rome. He is—most people believe, and I think accurately—writing for Peter; he is writing down Peter’s account of the life of Jesus. He mentions Alexander and Rufus because they would have had meaning to his audience.
In Romans 16:13, we read a statement by Paul at the end of the epistle. “Greet Rufus, chosen …”—that is, a choice one—“… in the Lord…” He had a special status in the church in Rome, and as well as his mother. There are many who believe that this statement by Mark indicates that this is the same Rufus. If so, then he was the son of Simon and would indicate that Simon had become a believer.
Although we can’t say that with certainty, it certainly makes sense that the one who had helped the Lord carry His cross to Golgotha would have seen something different, just as the centurion did. That this was not a man who screamed and resisted and yelled and wept as the others did, but one who was calm and relaxed all the way to His death.
The third stage on the way to Golgotha is Jesus’ comments to a group of women that are mourners. We learn that there is a multitude of women, probably professional mourners. Some may have been women from among His own followers, but I believe they were professional mourners.
You also have the other two who were crucified with Jesus, who were being taken to Golgotha at the same time. These professional mourners are weeping and wailing. They are, according to Luke 23:27, they “… mourned and they lamented Him.”
They are wailing; they are weeping; they are beating their breasts. They are going through all of the external motions of those who were deeply grieved, whether they were actually or not is not the point of this episode. The point of this episode is what Jesus says to them
In Luke 23:28, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
I think it is fascinating that as our Lord is going through all of this physical torment—as He’s been tortured, as He’s been beaten, as He has attempted to carry the patibulum to this site of the execution—that He pauses along the way, and you see this statement of grace and compassion, genuine compassion, to these women.
As He addresses them, He warns them of that which will come. He addresses them as the daughters of Jerusalem, not as women but as the daughters of Jerusalem. These are women of Jerusalem, and He’s going to warn them of the coming assault and destruction of Jerusalem in this statement.
Jerusalem will bear the brunt of the Roman wrath. In the Jewish revolt of AD 66 to 70, Jerusalem will be finally destroyed after months of siege. Many hundreds of thousands will be killed at that time.
Jesus says, (Luke 23:28) “… Do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
He goes on to say, (Luke 23:29) “For indeed the days are coming …”
This statement, “… the days are coming …” is as it were lifted out of the prophets. It indicates that a key period of God’s wrath is coming. It is a warning, “… the days are coming, in which they will say …” This is stated as a proverb, but it’s a proverb that is the reverse of what would normally be said.
Normally there would be a statement of blessing: “Blessed are those whose wombs are fruitful.” “Blessed are those who have many children.” “Blessed are those who are fruitful and who multiply.” In this coming time of judgment, everything will be turned backwards and upside down. Everything is turned over because of the horrors of what will take place.
He says three things: (Luke 23:29)
- “Blessed are the barren”—that is those who were never able to have children.
- He reinforces that with a synonymous ideal—“wombs that never bore,”
- “Breasts which never nursed.”
He is emphasizing through this threefold repetition that blessing on those who have no children because of the horrors that are going to come at this time.
In Luke 23:30, “Then they will begin to say …”—that is at the time of this judgment—“… then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ ”
What is going on here? This is a quotation from Hosea 10:8. It is a statement of a historical event that is a picture of a future time of judgment.
We’ve gone through this before where we’ve talked about the different ways that the Old Testament is used and quoted in the New Testament, that sometimes it’s a literal prophecy and with a literal fulfillment, such as in Micah 5:2 where the prophecy is that Bethlehem Ephrata, would be the birthplace of the Messiah. It’s a literal prophecy, literal fulfillment.
There are other examples where you have a historical statement. For example, in Hosea 11:1 where it states that “And out of Egypt I called My son,” that’s talking about something that happened historically at the time of the Exodus. That is a picture or a type of something that will happen in the time of the Messiah.
This is being quoted that way by the Lord—that the event that happened in the Old Testament is a picture also of future judgment—and at that future judgment they will call upon the mountains to “cover us, to hide us, to protect us” (Hosea 10:8) from the wrath that is coming.
The historical event relates to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel—known as Samaria—in Hosea 10:7–8, that the Northern Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The statement goes on to say, “As for Samaria, her king is cut off like a twig on the water. Also the high places of Aven …”—that is the high places where they worship the false idols—“… the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall grow on their altars …”
Where else do we read of thorn and thistle combined? Go back to Genesis 3 and the judgment. This is a picture of judgment on their sin. What they say as they are being surrounded and defeated by the Assyrians is “… They shall say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’ ”
This is a vivid metaphorical expression, as they are expressing how horrific this judgment is and their desire just to crawl into the ground and to be protected.
We also see the same imagery in Revelation 6 with the sixth seal judgment, as there is this horrific asteroid shower that is slaughtering thousands upon the earth, that the kings and the leaders of the earth are crawling into the caves, shaking their fists at God, and calling upon the mountains to protect them and to cover them.
This is clearly a statement that is used to describe the horrors of divine judgment. Luke 23:30 uses an Old Testament passage talking about judgment upon Israel to depict the horrors that will come again in AD 70 when the Romans will come and destroy Jerusalem. He says that it is better for them to mourn for themselves than to mourn for Him.
In the next verse there, we read a statement that seems a little bit obscure to us. He states in Luke 23:31, “For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”
If I were sitting in a classroom like I was the last couple weeks, I’d say, “Well, explain that to me. Tell me what that means.” In your daily Bible reading, how would you understand that? It would be somewhat difficult to understand exactly what that means.
This was a statement that was made in the Old Testament—similarly or roughly—in Ezekiel 20:47. Jesus’ statement is basically saying, “If I suffered this much and I am innocent, how much more are you going to suffer because you are guilty?”
The idea there in that statement emphasizes: if they do these things in the green wood, when everything is right, when everything is good and green and prosperous, if they will destroy the king at that time, what then will happen when things are dry?
David Flusser, who was a Jewish scholar at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and wrote a number of large works dealing with Jesus and the New Testament, states regarding this verse (Luke 23:31):
“The green wood is difficult to kindle, while the dry is easy to burn. If the life of the pious Jesus ends with a tragedy, what will happen to sinful Jerusalem? The disaster becomes inevitable, but there is hope for Jerusalem in a distant future when the times of the Gentiles will be completed (Luke 21:24).”
This is an excellent understanding of the meaning of this passage. Jesus is warning about what will come because of their rejection of Him, because of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that was announced in Matthew 12, that unforgivable sin. Not that it wasn’t forgivable for eternity, but that in time that generation would go through the divine judgment of AD 70.
Stage 4: The arrival at Golgotha called The Place of the Skull. We need to ask a couple of questions:
- What exactly is the meaning of this word Golgotha?
- What is the meaning of the word Calvary?
(It’s CALvary, not CAValry; just make sure you get the “L” in the right spot.)
What does that refer to when it says it’s the “place of the skull?” Does that mean that this place looks like a skull—that the rock wall there, which is actually an abandoned quarry—that if you looked at it, it would look like a skull?
Or as some suggest, does it mean that there were skulls of the dead scattered on the ground? Or as others suggest, does it just simply mean that there were graves there, and, of course, skulls inside of the graves?
Let’s look at the meaning of the words for Golgotha and Calvary:
- Matthew and Mark use the word Golgotha. It’s an Aramaic term that indicates the place of a skull: that’s what it means. Each of the Gospel accounts uses the word place.
- Luke uses the Latin phrase, “when they came to the place called Calvary.”
- John in his Gospel says, (John 19:17) “He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.”
- The term Golgotha is the Aramaic word which means skull. This is characteristic in some way of this location.
- The Latin phrase for the place of the skull is Calvariae Locus, as it is in the Latin Vulgate. This is where we get our English word Calvary, and it is simply the Latin equivalent of Golgotha, the place of the skull.
There are two basic views:
1. Some topographical feature looked like a skull, and so it was named after that.
Dwight Pentecost, longtime professor at Dallas Seminary, wrote an excellent book called The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, states that
“The name cannot have been derived from the skulls which lay about, since such exposure would have been unlawful; and hence, must have been due to the skull-like shape and appearance of the place.”
I think he makes a mistake there thinking there are only two options. It either looked like a skull or there were skulls on the ground. He misses the third option, which I’ll talk about in just a minute.
Another who has taken the view that it was called The Place of the Skull because of a topographical feature is Charles Gordon. Charles Gordon was known as Gordon of Khartoum. I have always found him an interesting guy. I saw his Bible at the British Museum one time, and you could barely read the text because of all of the notes that he wrote everywhere.
He was considered a military genius. He had served in the British Army, and then he was hired as sort of a mercenary general to put down a Chinese rebellion called the Taiping Rebellion, which he did, which earned him another nickname, which was Chinese Gordon.
After his adventures in China, he came back and toured the Middle East, and he had his own view of where things were. He had his own location for Ararat. He had his own location for where Golgotha and the tomb were located.
This is a depiction of Gordon’s Calvary. You can see that it looks something like there might have been at one time only two of these holes there looking like a skull, and here would be the nose, but there are pictures of this 100 years ago where the erosion wasn’t as severe as it is today, and it doesn’t look quite as much. So if you extrapolate back about 2,000 years, you would wonder if it looked anything like a skull.
This is the location of what is today called—not Gordon’s Tomb or Gordon’s Calvary—but The Garden Tomb. They were able to shift the language there just a little bit. It still sounds alike, and this is located on the north side of Jerusalem.
This is a place that many evangelicals love to visit. I love to take my tour groups there when we go because it has more of the feel of what the area where Jesus was crucified was actually like. When you go to where many believe Jesus was crucified, there is a church there. It is a Greek Orthodox Church, and it has all of the smells and bells associated with Eastern Orthodoxy, and this really turns off a lot of American evangelicals.
However, that is almost without a doubt the accurate location where Jesus was crucified. But you can get a better feel for it here, and it’s always nice. When we go there, we have the Lord’s Table, and we talk about some of the different aspects and features of that particular area.
One of the biggest weaknesses of this view is that the identification of Gordon’s Calvary or The Garden Tomb only goes back to 1883. From AD 33 until 1883, there was no alternative location ever suggested for the crucifixion other than the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
In fact, Arnold Fruchtenbaum states that 13 consecutive Jewish bishops of Jerusalem all identified that as the location of the crucifixion. In the 1970s two Jewish archaeologists in Jerusalem, Gabriel Barkay and Amos Kloner, made the following discoveries. They pointed out that The Garden Tomb property is right next door to the French School of Archaeology called the École Biblique.
When we drive up there in the bus, you can see that gate on the right, and all of the tombs there, the tombs just above The Garden Tomb and the tombs all in that area are First Temple tombs that go back to the eighth and ninth century BC. Jesus was laid, the Scripture says, in a new tomb where nobody had ever been laid before, according to John 19:41.
When we come to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher—here’s a schematic—there are a number of tombs that have been discovered in that surrounding area, and they are all late Second Temple period tombs right at the time of Jesus.
Excavations in the 1970s discovered in the northeast part of the church the foundations of Hadrian’s Roman Forum on which he built the Temple of Aphrodite in AD 135 after the Bar Kokhba Rebellion.
What Hadrian did because he hated the Jews so much—they were so rebellious: there had been the rebellion in AD 66 to 70 and another rebellion in AD 135—was that he wanted to blot out all memory of the Jews, so he renamed Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina, and he built pagan temples on the holy sites where Christians and Jews would worship.
He built a temple to Jupiter and Aphrodite here, he built another temple on the Temple Mount, and he built another temple on the site of the Church of the Nativity, which is probably the site where Jesus was born. He didn’t put them in other places. He put them right there in those locations. So, we can thank Hadrian for marking those locations for us for subsequent generations.
What I’ve pointed out here is that you have the first-century tombs. You can go in there—I’ll show you a picture of those in just a minute—and this indicates that at in the first century this area was a location of tombs, which fits the biblical description.
This area here is a large tent-like structure called an edicule, which covers the location of the tomb of Jesus, and it surprises people because just across here you see the exposed rock—I’ll show you a picture of that in just a minute—which is the Rock of Calvary or the Rock of Golgotha. The distance between these two is about 60 yards.
How far is 60 yards? I walked it off this morning. If you go out here on this sidewalk about even with this back wall of the church and look down the sidewalk to where the sidewalk ends at the grass, that’s approximately 60 yards. It’s not very far. Jesus was laid into a tomb that was right nearby, and today all of that is under one church.
This is the entry to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
I think it’s about a 15th century lock that still locks the door. After Suleiman captured the city, the key fell into the hands of an Arab family that still maintains control. They lock the door every night; they unlock it every morning. It’s about a two-minute ceremony, and we always go there on one of the tour groups.
As you go in, you go up some stairs, and on the right you’ll see glass areas that cover the rock where you can look through and see the exposed rock. What’s interesting is that this rock shows evidence of earthquake activity, and, of course, the Scripture says an earthquake occurred at the time of the crucifixion.
Here’s another picture, another angle, showing the exposed rock there.
And then down below in a different room, you have this area where you can look through and see the Rock of Golgotha.
This is the location and I put in these brown lines here to indicate where the roads were. Jesus was brought out from the Praetorium to the site of Golgotha. There was a road going into the city here, coming from the west and entering in through a gate here, and this would be where people walked by and would see those being executed.
This is, I believe, the authentic site of where our Lord was crucified. The years of doubt were because they misidentified this wall, thinking that because Jesus was crucified outside of the wall, that that should’ve been this wall. This is what led Gordon to misidentify the location. But at the time of Jesus, this sort of orange line is where the wall was located.
Stage 5: When Jesus arrives, they’re going to give Him something to dull the pain. They offer Him “wine with gall,” the Scripture says, “… but He would not drink” (Matthew 27:34). He tasted it, according to Matthew, but He wouldn’t drink it because He knew that it would numb His senses. He knew He needed to be fully present with all of His faculties present to fight the spiritual battle that was going to take place on the Cross.
Matthew 27:34 says they mingled gall. Mark 15:23 says they mingled myrrh with it. They would have some different things that they would mix in with the wine that would function as an anesthetic in order to numb the pain.
This is documented by the Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin. We read:
“Again, what of R. Hiyya b. Ashi’s dictum in R. Hisda’s name: When one is led out to the execution, he is given a goblet of wine containing a grain of frankincense, in order to benumb his senses …”
So this was the normal procedure.
As we conclude today, I want to get into the first stage of the next section, the first three hours. The wrath of men, as men continue to ridicule and mock the Lord on the Cross, the first three hours. The second three hours is when God will pour out His wrath upon Jesus.
Stage 6: The crucifixion takes place.
As they arrived at the crucifixion site, Simon has been carrying the patibulum. He is carrying it on his back. He lowers it to the ground. Jesus has been walking along. The Roman soldiers now must nail His hands to the crossbeam.
I don’t think they did this gently. I don’t think they asked, “Well, Jesus, would You lie down on the ground and put your hands on the beam?” They have abused Him and beaten Him. They probably knocked Him down, which wouldn’t take much force, forced Him down on the ground, held his hands down. He did not resist. He didn’t fight. He didn’t protest His innocence, because “… as a sheep before its shearers is silent …” so Isaiah 53:7 says, “… He opened not His mouth.”
Then they would have taken the spikes and nailed them through just below the base of the hand. The reason it wouldn’t go into the palm is because the palms would not support the weight because of the way the bones radiate out from the wrist. The word in the Greek describing the hand really covers everything from the forearm out to the hand. And so they began to crucify Him.
There were four stages to the crucifixion:
1. The criminal would carry the patibulum to the execution site.
2. He would be tied or nailed to the patibulum.
3. The beam would then be raised by forked poles. They would have these strong poles that soldiers on either side would hook under the cross beam and lift that up, and then set it on top of the cross on top of the stipes, which is the vertical post.
Here is a diagram. There were different types of crosses that were used.
- Here is the capital T shape, where they could still affix a title above it, or it’s actually the indictment against the criminal.
- This is the shape that we’re often used to, a lower-case T type of shape.
- This was when they would just use a tree or a post, and that was more common in Italy than it was in the Middle East. The two on the left were the most common ones in the Middle East.
I think the majority opinion today is that it was the Tau shape, the capital T shape that we have here [on the left]. Down below you can see a picture of someone being crucified on the cross, where the sign listing the indictment, that He was “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews” is posted just above Him, so it would not require the middle shape in order to do that as some have asserted.
This gives us a picture here of the patibulum, would be lifted up and set down on top of the stipes, where then the crucifixion would take place.
4. A tablet or some other sign that specified the crime that was the indictment would be nailed to the top of the cross or hung around his neck.
And then the real physical suffering intensified, leading eventually to that last three-hour period on the cross.
1 Peter 2:24 tells us that “… who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”
“Father, we’re thankful for the revelation that we have been given in Your Word, in the Gospels, about what transpired with our Lord’s crucifixion: the horrors, the pain, the beatings, all of that leading up to those three hours when He bore the sin penalty.
“All of that suffering beforehand did not have anything to do with His paying the sin penalty, but it did demonstrate that He was Who He claimed to be, for He did not protest, He did not open His mouth, He quietly submitted, humbled Himself to the point of death, as Paul tells us.
“Father, we pray that if there is anyone here today or anyone listening online that they would recognize that Jesus died for them. If there is anyone who has never trusted in Christ, that they would realize Jesus died for them.
“He died for every human being. He paid the penalty for every single sin in human history. There was no sin forgotten, there was no sin too great for the grace of God, there is no failure that cannot be overcome by the grace of God. Jesus paid it all.
“Father, we pray that we might as believers understand, as Peter reminds us, that Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree. That we might live for Him, that we might live for righteousness, that we are saved to reflect Your glory and to live for You to pursue spiritual maturity, that we might serve You with our lives, for we have been bought with a price.
“We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”