But the whole crowd shouted, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!’ (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)
Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’
For the third time he spoke to them: ‘Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.’
But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, “Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!” Then
‘“they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’
and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’”
For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?’
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’
There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’
But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
- As the court case comes to a close, why was Jesus sentenced to death? Do you consider it to be a just case?
- What does this case show about the religious leaders who arrested and condemned Jesus? And what does it show about the Roman authority in charge of keeping peace and justice in the region? Why do you think the case against Jesus was dealt with in this way?
- What stood out to you about Jesus’ attitude in being condemned and then crucified?
- There’s a very interesting conversation between Jesus and two criminals being crucified with him. Why do you think Jesus said “today you will be with me in Paradise” to the second criminal? What did he mean by that? Jesus seems to be offering the criminal forgiveness and salvation - do you think he deserved this?
- Why do you think it says the veil in the temple was torn in two?
- After reading the story, what is your opinion - was Jesus’ death a great tragedy? A tragic mistake?
Summary and application
- When we started reading the story of Jesus’ death we said that it was the climax, the most important moment in the story about Jesus. Why is that? What does Jesus’ death accomplish? Why do you think Jesus had to die?
- What does it mean to you?
Jesus’ death was no accident. Jesus foretold his death, he knew it would happen because this was the purpose for which he came to Earth.
We started this Bible study looking at Jesus as a revolutionary, whose revolution begins in our hearts. We learnt that he changes us from the inside by offering us forgiveness: a second chance, a new beginning. We saw that Jesus wanted to deal with sin - a sickness that we all need a cure for. We learnt of God’s broken heart for us and about our condition as human beings, that we are far from God, that we have gone our own way, and that he is waiting for us to return home, like a loving father awaiting his lost son.
And now we see how far God was willing to go that we might have peace with him. Jesus was willing to die a horrible death for me and you. Someone had to pay the debt of sin. Sin leads to death. Far from God we are doomed to death. But Jesus died in our place.
That’s why Jesus’ death changes everything. It changes our situation before God. It opens the way for us to come home to him. The veil in the temple represented a separation between man and God. As Jesus died that veil was ripped in two, making the way open for man to make peace with God.
All we have to do is follow the example of the lost son, and the criminal crucified beside Jesus. Neither deserved forgiveness. The criminal did nothing to earn salvation. He had no time to do good deeds or prove his heart had changed, and yet Jesus promised him forgiveness and eternal life. All we need to do is ask him, and he forgives and gives life. Eternal life.