Crucifixion of Jesus


In the Gospels Jesus repeatedly suggests to his disciples his end is near, but they do not fully understand or accept the idea. The clearest expression of this is at the "Last Supper," which took place on the night before his death. All four Gospels record Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples, asking them to "do this in remembrance of me." {1} Christians celebrate this event in the sacrament of the Eucharist, or Communion.

On this evening Jesus also predicts that one of them will betray him, which is met with astonishment and denial. But that very night, Jesus' fate was sealed when Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples and possibly the group's treasurer, led Roman soldiers to Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. As they arrested Jesus, the ever-colorful Peter defended his master with a sword, slicing off the ear of a centurion. But he was rebuked by Jesus, who admonished, "Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." {2}

Jesus was brought before the Jewish chief priests for trial. When questioned, he said very little but affirmed he was the Messiah. He was then judged worthy of death for blasphemy and handed over to the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, for punishment. Although reluctant to condemn Jesus for reasons not entirely clear, Pilate sentenced Jesus to death at the insistence of the mob that had gathered. According to Matthew, when Judas learned of the sentence he threw his silver coins into the temple and hanged himself. {3}

Jesus was brutally beaten, clothed in a mock-royal purple robe and crown of thorns, then executed by crucifixion at Golgotha (The Place of the Skull). This method of execution, apparently a Roman invention, entailed nailing or tying the victim's hands and feet to a wooden cross. It produced a slow, painful death by asphyxiation.

The Gospels report that only Jesus' mother and a handful of female disciples were present at the execution. Jesus suffered on the cross for six hours before finally crying out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and breathing his last. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark report extraordinary events upon Jesus' death - the entire land went dark, there was a great earthquake, the temple curtain was torn in half, and some recent dead came back to life. {4}


  1. Mt 27:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; Lk 22:7-20; Jn 13:1-38.
  2. Mt 26:52.
  3. Mt 27:3-5. See also Ac 1:16-25, in which Judas "fell headlong.".
  4. Mt 27:27-56; Mk 15:16-41; Lk 23:26-49; Jn 19:17-30.
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