The Death of Jesus, Part 8: The Burial

O darkest woe!
Ye tears, forth flow!
Has earth so sad a wonder,
That the Father’s only Son
Now is buried yonder!

O Ground of faith,
Laid low in death!
Sweet lips, now silent sleeping:
Surely all that live must mourn
Here with bitter weeping.

– Würzburg Gesangbuch, “O Darkest Woe, Ye Tears Forth Flow”

INTRODUCTION

In this final post of our series, “The Death of Jesus,” we will explore several aspects of the post-crucifixion burial. Some have claimed that the story we have in Scripture is not credible, and therefore the entire Passion account is untrustworthy. In response to these claims, we will organize our presentation around five questions:

1.   What is the New Testament account of the burial of Jesus?
2.  Were the victims of crucifixion really buried?
3.  Was Joseph of Arimathea a fictional character?
4.  Were there really guards present at the tomb of Jesus?
5.  What does the archaeological record tell us about 1st-century tombs?  Continue reading

The Death of Jesus, Part 7: The Crucifixion

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

– Isaac Watts, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

BIBLICAL ACCOUNT

Jesus is crucified by Roman soldiers and heckled mercilessly by the crowds. The biblical account is sparse in its details and matter-of-fact in its presentation. New Testament scholar Martin Hengel—after an extensive examination of the practice of crucifixion in the ancient world—concluded, “It was an utterly offensive affair, ‘obscene’ in the original sense of the word. . . . No ancient writer wanted to dwell on the subject too long.” Hence the New Testament writers give greater attention to the significance of the cross than to a physical description of it.  Continue reading

The Death of Jesus, Part 6: Journey to Golgotha

The other gods were strong; but thou wast weak;
They rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.

– Edward Shillito

BIBLICAL ACCOUNT

After his trials, beatings, flogging, and mock worship, Jesus receives back his own clothes and is led out to the crucifixion site. It was customary for criminals to be paraded through the streets, sometimes naked, so the return of Jesus’ clothes may reflect a Roman concession to the Jews for the shame they felt in being exposed in public.

The execution site is called Golgotha, which is Aramaic for “Place of the Skull.” Our more familiar term “Calvary” (which derives from the Latin word calvaria) also means “skull” and was used in the Vulgate (Latin) version of the Gospels. The route of the procession has become known as the Via Dolorosa (“the Way of Suffering”), and we should note—given our hymnody—that there is no specific biblical reference to Golgotha being located on a hill, although it is certainly possible that it was.  Continue reading

The Death of Jesus, Part 5: The Crown of Thorns and Mock Robe

O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown;

– Ber­nard of Clair­vaux

INTRODUCTION

As we continue our series, it is important to keep in mind what we mentioned in the first post: To ponder the death of Jesus is to probe the loving heart of God. Indeed, it was Jesus himself who connected the two: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16a). This divine giving encompassed the cross.

During the season of Lent, believers around the world give deep thought to the sufferings of Christ. Our purpose in doing so is not to be macabre but to increase our gratitude and enhance our generosity. It’s part of our discipleship. It’s one of the ways we renew our minds.

Believers are especially challenged when we realize that Jesus was tortured by religious people as well as irreligious people. Believers and unbelievers alike totally missed the fact that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19). Therefore, it is the believer more than anyone else who needs to contemplate the cross and relinquish any self-righteousness in the process.  Continue reading

The Death of Jesus, Part 4: Pontius Pilate and the Flogging

He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:5

BIBLICAL ACCOUNT

After his trials before Jewish and Roman authorities, Jesus is ordered by Pontius Pilate to be flogged (Matt 27:26 || Mark 15:15 || John 19:21). Flogging (or scourging) was the normal preliminary to crucifixion, and it was a horrible torture in itself. Josephus, the 1st-century Jewish historian, wrote of a certain man who was “flayed to the bone with scourges” (War 6.304). Men sometimes died under flogging, or, at the very least, they were severely weakened by the punishment.

Continue reading

The Death of Jesus, Part 3: Initial Torment and Trial before Caiaphas

See the Lamb in full submission.
Hear the silence in His soul.
No complaints and no defenses;
See the victim in control.

While their God is bound and bleeding,
Hear their blind and desperate scorn.
Feel His weight of grief and anguish,
Bowed and battered, bruised and torn.

– Ken Bible, “The Trial”

BIBLICAL ACCOUNT

Jesus’ ordeal continues with (1) his betrayal by Judas and arrest in Gethsemane, (2) his trial before the Sanhedrin and high priest, Caiaphas, and (3) his denials by Peter in the courtyard (Matt 26:47-75 || Mark 14:43-72 || Luke 22:47-65 || John 18:4-27). During this time Jesus is bound, led away, abandoned by most of his followers, spit upon, blindfolded, beaten, slapped, punched, mocked, and rejected as a false messiah.

MEDICAL ANALYSIS

The psychological torment that Jesus experienced in Gethsemane is now accompanied by the physical torment he endures from the soldiers. The initial beatings and rough treatment intensify his bodily pain, somatic trauma, and loss of blood. “The cutaneous irritations caused by the blows, owing to their accumulation, produce little vesicles, which break and spread sero-sanguineous exudation all over the body” (Barbet, 1953).  Continue reading

The Death of Jesus, Part 2: Bloody Sweat?

For me it was in the garden
He prayed, ‘Not My will, but Thine.’
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

– Charles H. Gabriel, “I Stand Amazed in the Presence”

Our series, “The Death of Jesus,” continues with the phenomenon of Jesus’ bloody sweat. In our last post, we argued that the multiple, independent attestation of Jesus’ sufferings and death argues for authenticity. Specifically, we noted that:

1. Jesus’ execution is referenced in all four gospels.
2. Jesus’ execution is referenced in the earliest writings of the church.
3. Jesus’ execution is referenced in extra-biblical, non-Christian sources. 

In the next several posts, we will contend that the description we have in Scripture of Jesus’ physical sufferings is historically, medically, geographically, and archaeologically credible, which also argues for authenticity. Our first consideration will be what happened to Jesus moments before he was arrested.  Continue reading