The Passion of the Christ

Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of the Lenten season. It is the time in the church year when the faithful remember Christ’s forty days of temptation in the desert and His sufferings and death on the cross.

As believers, it is important that we do not simply go through the motions of Lent such as fasting or abstaining from meat. We need to keep before our minds that God pardoned our sins by the rending of His heart in the tremendous tragedy of His Son’s death. Forgiveness, which is so easy to accept, meant the agony of Calvary.

The story of Christ’s death has been told many times. However, there are details about the last hours of our Lord’s life that you may not be aware of or have considered for some time. We hope the information below will help increase your knowledge and love of God through the Passion of His Christ.

The Last Supper
On the night before he died, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. This special meal originated in the book of Exodus during the days when Jews were in Egyptian bondage.

Under God’s command, Moses instructed the Israelites to prepare a lamb for their evening meal and paint their doorposts with the animal’s blood. At midnight, the Lord went through the land of Egypt and struck down all the firstborn males, but he passed over the houses of the Jews because of the blood on their doors.

At the Last Supper Jesus changed the meaning of Passover.1 No longer would the meal be celebrated in remembrance of what happened in Egypt. He commanded us to remember Him with the words: “Do this in remembrance of ME.” 2 Jesus would become the new Passover Lamb as His sacrifice on the cross would cause God to Passover our sins.

After the Passover meal Jesus walked to Gethsemane. It was a garden located on the Mount of Olives right outside Jerusalem. The word Gethsemane means olive press. In ancient times olives were placed under the enormous weight of a large stone (called a Gethsemane) until the oil ran out of them.

The name of the garden is deeply symbolic of our Lord’s Passion. When Christ prayed in this garden He was pressed with the weight of all the sins in the world. The weight was so incredibly heavy that it squeezed out of Him His own blood. In the Gospel of Luke we find this description:

“…being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”3

The Gospel writer was hardly exaggerating. Sweating blood is an actual medical phenomenon that occurs under conditions of great emotional stress.4 With every sin in the world washing over our Lord, it isn’t any wonder that he began to sweat blood from his body. This, in fact, made His skin extra sensitive and would increase the torture He would undergo at the scourging.

Judas Iscariot led the temple guards and servants of the high priest to Gethsemane to arrest Jesus. This band of men came heavily armed, but was still afraid to arrest our Lord. They fell back in fear when Christ identified Himself.5 He freely offered himself to their arrest and when the Apostle Peter drew a sword to defend Him, our Lord admonished Him with these words:

“Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”6

Twelve legions consisted of 120,000 angels! At anytime during His sufferings, Christ could have called angels down to rescue Him. No one took Christ’s life from Him. Our Lord literally laid it down. Scripture tells us:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…
…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”7

After His arrest our Lord underwent four separate trials.8 Two of the trials came from religious judges and two from political judges. The religious judges found him too religious, the political judges found him too political. The judges could not agree on why He should be condemned they could only agree that He should be condemned.9

Throughout the trials Christ was surrounded by men that passionately hated Him. Some of the abuse He suffered is not mentioned in the Gospels but prophetically written and foretold in the Old Testament. There we find that the mob mocked him, spit on him, beat him and ripped out His beard. These details come from the book of Isaiah:

“I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.”10

During Christ’s trial the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, was convinced Jesus was innocent,11 but under extreme pressure from the crowds, Pilate believed scourging Him would satisfy the mob.

Roman scourging was the worst kind of flogging that took place in ancient times. Scourging was not a form of execution, but many criminals did not survive the ordeal. The roman whip was called a flagellum and consisted of nine cords weighted with lead balls and pieces of sharp bones. It was specifically designed to lacerate the human skin.12

The victim of a scourging was bound to a post or frame, stripped of his clothing, and beaten with the flagellum. The beating left the victim bloody and weak, in unimaginable pain and near the point of death.

The church historian Eusebius of Caesarea described the vivid, horrifying details from bystanders that witnessed actual scourging. He states, “The bystanders were struck with amazement when they saw victims lacerated with scourges even to the innermost veins and arteries, so that the hidden inward parts of the body, both their bowels and their members, were exposed to view.”13

Our Lord endured, He did not call down angels for rescue nor did He allow Himself to die. He willed Himself to continue in order to fulfill the promise of Salvation through death on a cross.

The Crown of Thorns
After the scourging Scripture tells us:

“The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head.”14

This crown was symbolic of man’s sin. Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden caused the earth to be cursed with thorns and thistles.15 The crown of thorns represented the curse of the earth bestowed upon the head of Christ. It identified Him as the only one worthy to redeem humanity and remove the curse and consequences of sin through His sufferings.

The climax of Christ’s redemption came at the cross where He gave Himself freely to suffer the most shameful death imaginable.16

Roman crucifixion was designed to maximize a victim’s suffering. The word excruciating is actually derived from the Latin word for crucifixion.

Christ’s body was pulled and fastened to the cross with such brutality that his bones were disjointed. The book of Psalms details the pain Christ felt at the cross:

“I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; I can count every one of my bones, while they gaze at me and gloat.”17

As Jesus hung on the cross He was hindered from normal breathing. His body was pulled down from His outstretched hands and shoulders. This made it difficult for Him to exhale. He would try to breathe more freely by pushing up on His nailed feet and straightening His body until the pain in His feet forced Him to sag on the cross again. He endured this suffering for six hours.18

Last Words
The first recorded words of the Savior in Scripture perfectly compliment His last Words at His death.

First recorded words: “…I must be about my father's business.”19
Last recorded Words: “It is finished.”20

Three days in the Tomb
The Lord had a specific reason as to why He waited three days to rise from the grave. Historically, the Jews believed the soul lingered with a corpse three days before it departed. Christ deliberately waited three days before His resurrection to prove without a doubt that He in fact overcame death in His resurrection.

Good Friday
Good Friday is the universal day Christians commemorate the passion and death of Christ. However, there are two Scriptures that directly reveal our Lord’s death did not take place on a Friday. What’s important is that a day is set aside to remember our Lord’s sacrifice. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus stated:

“As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”21

If our Lord were to remain three days and three nights in the tomb, His death would have to occur before Friday. Jewish days are counted from sunset to sunset.

Since we know Christ expired at 3pm we can easily deduce the day of the Crucifixion:

Buried quickly before sunset (Wednesday about 6pm)
Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset (the first night & the first day in the tomb)
Thursday sunset to Friday sunset (the second night & the second day in the tomb)
Friday sunset to Saturday sunset (the third night & the third day in the tomb)

The Resurrection took place after the Saturday sunset during the night and not Sunday after sunrise. Scripture tells us the women went before the sun rose Sunday morning to find the tomb was empty.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.”22

Aside from the Lenten season, meditating often upon the Passion of our Lord brings comfort and clarity to our spiritual lives. Time and again we realize how deeply we are loved.

…if you were the only person in the world who ever lived, He would have come down and suffered and died just for you alone. That is how much God loves you!23

1 The Gospel of Matthew 26:26-28
2 The Gospel of Luke 22:19; 1st Corinthians 11:23-26
3 The Gospel of Luke 22:44
4 Commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis
5 The Gospel of John 18:5
6 The Gospel of Matthew 6:53
7 The Gospel of John 10:11, 18
8 The Gospel of John 18:12-13 (taken to Annas); The Gospel of Matthew 26:57 (taken to Caiaphas); The Gospel of Mark 15:1 (taken to Pilate); The Gospel of Luke 23:7 (taken to Herod)
9 A divine observation in Fulton Sheen’s book: The Life of Christ
10 The Book of Isaiah 50:6
11 The Gospel of Matthew 10:18
12 David, M. (2000, January). The Scourging of Jesus. Truth Magazine, XLIV(1), 11-12. Retrieved from
13 Ecclesiastical History, Book 4, chapter 15
14 The Gospel of John 19:2
15 The Book of Genesis 3:17-19
16 The Book of Philippians 2:8
17 Psalm 22:14, 17
18 The 6 hours on the cross are documented from the following Scriptures: the Gospel of Mark 15:25-26 (the time He was crucified); The Gospel of Mark 15:34 (the time He expired).
19 The Gospel of Luke 2:49
20 The Gospel of John 9:30
21 The Gospel of Matthew 2:40
22 The Gospel of John 20:1
23 From Fulton Sheen’s, “The Divine Romance: God’s Quest for Man”

Spring 2014
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