Here’s what Jesus’ death and resurrection, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, was all about
Jesus Christ’s death by crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals.
In Jesus’ case, it seemed just about everyone contributed. The Jewish religious leaders, the Gentile Roman government and a mob of people all demanded his death.
It all started in a small village, not far from Jerusalem, in Israel. At 30 years of age, Jesus began teaching people about life and God.
Crowds were drawn to him. Everything about Jesus was markedly different from the ruling religious leaders. He welcomed not only the wealthy and powerful, but also the prostitutes, poor, diseased and marginalized.
Jesus called people to believe in him, saying things like, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”1
Why did people listen to Jesus? Because of what they saw.
“Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.”2The blind could see, lame walk, lepers free from leprosy.
He fed a destitute crowd of 4,000 people starting with a handful of fish and loaves of bread. He did it again with 5,000 people.
During a raging storm at sea, Jesus stood and commanded the wind and rain to stop, bringing sudden calm. The men in the boat asked, “Who is this, that even the wind and seas obey him?”3
Several times he brought dead people back to life. It’s no wonder crowds followed Jesus and word of him spread.
So Why Was Jesus Crucified?
As Jesus taught the crowds, he also was critical of the ruling religious authorities. They flaunted their position, insisting on obedience to their demanding rituals, laws and traditions.
Jesus said of them, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders…”4
And in direct challenge to them he said, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”5
For example, one of their religious law regarded no work on the Sabbath. No cooking, no walking a certain distance, no carrying any objects, etc. It was more restrictive than restful.
On a Sabbath day Jesus healed a man who had been disabled for 38 years. Jesus told the man to pick up and his mat and walk. The man stood up and for the first time in 38 years, he could walk. The Pharisees saw him and said, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
Jesus was constantly healing people. He did not stop on the Sabbath.
When the Pharisees confronted Jesus for working (healing people) on the Sabbath, Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
We’re told, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”6
Jesus Was Clear about His Deity.
Jesus said to know him was to know God.7 To see him was to see God.8 To believe in him was to believe in God.9 To receive him was to receive God.10 To hate him was to hate God.11 And to honor him was to honor God.12
Watching massive crowds follow Jesus, the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees decided to be rid of Jesus and regain their authority among the people.
They arrested Jesus and brought him before the high priest who asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
Jesus answered, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”13 (This referred to the final judgment of the world, which Jesus was saying he would carry out.)
The high priest immediately charged him with blasphemy, claiming to be God. And they all condemned him as deserving death.
Because the Jewish laws did not allow for capital punishment, the religious leaders brought Jesus before the occupying Roman Gentile government and demanded the death sentence. (Thus, both Jews and Gentiles participated in Jesus’ death.)
Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect (governor) of the area, had the final say. He believed Jesus should be set free. But the Pharisees and Sadducees stirred up the crowds to a mob frenzy and demanded that Jesus be put to death. They called out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate gave into the crowds’ demands.
The verdict: death by crucifixion, the Roman government’s method of torture and death.
Jesus Knew This Would Happen
None of this was a surprise to Jesus. Many times, prior to his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples that he was going to be arrested, beaten, crucified. He also said that three days after being buried he would come back to life. All that Jesus claimed about his deity would be proved by physically coming back to life.
The soldiers took Jesus, created a wreath of long thorns and pressed it into Jesus head as a mock crown and beat him.
Then they flogged Jesus with the cat-o-nine-tails, a whip with multiple bone- or metal-tipped ends. Forty lashes were often enough to kill a person.
They nailed Jesus wrists and feet to a cross where he hung and died of slow suffocation and heart failure. A spear was thrust into his side to confirm his death.
Jesus’ death on the cross was not merely the natural consequences of his miracles and his statements. He was not at their mercy.
Jesus had already proved he had absolute power over nature, disease, even death. He healed so many people, even bringing people back to life. In light of that, Jesus could have stepped off the cross at any moment.
This was the equivalent of someone bending over and putting their head under water, and choosing to deliberately drown when they had the power to raise their head at any moment. Jesus chose to die.
Prior to his arrest, Jesus said, “No one takes my life from me. I lay it down of my own choosing.”14 He did so purposefully. It was planned. Intentional.
Why Did Jesus Allow His Crucifixion?
To varying degrees, we act in ways that are opposed to God’s ways. Just take a quick scan of the news on any given day…racism, murders, sexual abuse, lies, greed, corruption, terrorism, wars, etc. As people we have a great way of messing up our lives and the lives of others. God sees us as lost, blind and under his judgment for our ways.
Think how sickened and grieved we are to hear that an 6-year-old girl is kidnapped from her family for sexual abuse. It’s such an affront to our moral senses, that even those who oppose the death penalty might be tempted.
Well, all of our sin is an affront to a holy God. All of our sin grieves him. We don’t live up to our own standards, let alone his. When honest, we even disgust ourselves at times. So what would a perfectly holy God see?
God says that the penalty for sin is death.15 This is why, in the Old Testament you see God instructing the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb once a year for the forgiveness of their sins. The lamb died in their place. But that was a temporary forgiveness. They had to do this each year.
When Jesus came, the prophet John the Baptist said this about Jesus, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”16
Jesus came to take the penalty for humanity’s sin, for our sin, in our place. Rather than us die and be permanently, eternally separated from God, Jesus paid for our sin on the cross, in order that we could be forever forgiven and have eternal life.
This is exactly why Jesus came, as our Savior, to save us from God’s judgment, condemnation and payment of our sin. Any sin you have ever committed, or will do, Jesus was aware of while hanging on the cross. Jesus took the punishment for our sins for us.
DaVinci’s Last Supper
You’ve seen the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci of the “Last Supper” with Jesus sitting at a long table and the disciples sitting next to him on both sides of him. Da Vinci was depicting the dinner that Jesus had with his disciples the night before he was arrested and crucified.
At that “Last Supper” Jesus told his disciples that his blood would be “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”17
Jesus, who committed no sin, paid for our sin on the cross. It’s not fair. We didn’t deserve for him to take our place. Why would he do it?
We’re told, “God shows his love toward us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”18
Our Response to the Crucifixion of Jesus
What does he ask of us? To pay him back and earn our forgiveness? No. We could never be worthy of what Jesus did for us. What he asks of us is simple…to believe in him. He asks us to accept his death on our behalf, to accept his complete forgiveness as a free gift.
Oddly enough, many people don’t want to do this. They want to try to earn their own salvation. Earn their own way into heaven. They want to show by their efforts that they are worthy of a relationship with God. Jesus said they will die in their sin and face judgment, because they reject what Jesus did for them.
The disciple Peter said of Jesus, “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”19
But not only forgiveness, also eternal life and a close, personal relationship with God now, in this life. It is all ours, because Jesus died on the cross for us.
Jesus was not merely taking punishment for our sin. He was eliminating the wall that stood between us and God. He was offering far more than forgiveness. He was offering reconciliation, full acceptance, a full relationship with him, so we could know his love for us.
This is like a wealthy billionaire not only cancelling the debt a person owes him, but then turning over his entire estate to the person who couldn’t pay him back.
Eternal life, heaven, is a free gift: “For the payment for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”20
Jesus came into the world to die for us, to provide a way for us to know him intimately. It is our decision to receive the gift of a relationship with him that he is offering us.
Jesus summarized it this way, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”21
His Offer to Us
Anyone who will invite Jesus into their lives and accept his free gift of forgiveness and eternal life, begins a never-ending relationship with him.
After his crucifixion, they buried Jesus in a tomb and stationed a trained Roman guard of soldiers at his tomb. Why? Jesus had repeatedly said that three days after his burial, he would rise from the dead. It would prove everything he said about himself.
Three days later, the tomb was empty. Jesus then physically appeared to the disciples many times, to a crowd of 500, to individuals. Each of Jesus’ disciples went throughout the world proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection. Each one was martyred for it, in different locations from each other, so convinced of Jesus’ identity.
It is our decision whether to accept the forgiveness he offers, by moving toward him, asking him to forgive us and enter our lives.
John states it well in the Bible, “We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment.”22
Jesus explicitly stated, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”23
Jesus’ prayer right before his death: “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they [Jesus’ followers] know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”24
Would you like to invite Jesus Christ into your life right now? Here is how you can.
“Jesus, I ask you to come into my life. Forgive my sin. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. Lead my life as you want. Thank you for coming into my life right now and giving me a relationship with you. Amen.”
If you just asked Jesus into your life, his crucifixion means you have accepted his gift, you are forgiven, and have an eternal relationship with him. See the link below to grow in your new relationship with God.