Bearing His Own Cross!
Pilate delivered Jesus to the chief priests; and they, with the help of the Roman soldiers, took Jesus to be crucified. “It was the most cruel and shameful of all punishments,” said the Roman statesman-philosopher Cicero. “Let it never come near the body of a Roman citizen; nay, not even near his thoughts or eyes or ears.”
And they took Jesus and led [Him] away; so He went out, bearing His own cross, to the spot called The Place of the Skull—in Hebrew it is called Golgotha.
John 19:17 (AMP)
Golgotha literally means “the skull”. Only Luke used the Greek word “KRANION” (“‘cranium’”), which was translated as “Calvary,” to identify this place (Luke 23:33).
The exact location of Golgotha has been questioned since the third century. During the reign of Constantine in the fourth century, the historian Eusebius commissioned Bishop Marcarius to find the true site of Golgotha and the tomb. Eusebius wrote that impious men had covered the sepulchre (tomb) with earth and built a temple to the goddess Venus (Aphrodite) over it.
Based on this information, the emperor Constantine built a church on the site of Hadrian’s temple to Aphrodite, believing that to be the site of Golgotha. This site today is occupied by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and has a long tradition as being the location of Golgotha and the garden tomb. However, it is also history that the pagan emperor, Hadrian, had deliberately obscured many Christian holy sites with his temples so that their exact locations were unknown.
In 1842, Otto Thenius suggested that an area that the Jews called “Jeremiah’s Grotto” was the actual site of the crucifixion and burial. Forty years later, General Charles Gordon declared this to be the true site, and it has since then been called “Gordon’s Calvary.” Many prefer this site to the traditional site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Gordon’s Calvary also resembles the appearance of a skull with caves in the face of the hill. However, some argue that these caves are actually mines that only date back 300 or 400 years at the most.
These facts are evident from biblical accounts: Golgotha was near Jerusalem (John 19:20) but outside the city walls (Hebrews 13:12). The terminology “passed by” (Matthew 27:39) implies that Golgotha was by a well-traveled road. Mark 15:40 and Luke 23:49 also mention being able to view the crucifixion from a long way off, suggesting that Golgotha was a hill.
Crucifixion was one of the most torturous means of death that man has ever devised. Roman crucifixion began with a whipping of the condemned. The whip that was used was made of several strips of leather that had jagged pieces of metal, glass, or bone tied on the ends that didn’t just inflict great pain but actually tore open and laid bare the skin, causing great bleeding and weakness. Jesus received thirty-nine of these stripes during His trial before Pilate (Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:15).
The condemned was then led through the town to the place of crucifixion, carrying his own cross. This not only was very hard physically for a person who had already been weakened by beatings, but also was intended to humiliate the condemned and serve as a warning to those who saw the proceedings.
The person to be crucified would then be tied to the cross or, for the more violent offenders, nailed to the cross. The feet were placed one on top of the other with the knees in a bent position and a single spike driven through them into a footrest on the cross that would give partial support. The arms were outstretched and nailed to the crossbeam through the wrists. Jesus’ statements in Luke 24:39 and John 20:27 have caused many to believe that He was nailed to the cross through the palms of His hands.
Once the person was nailed to the cross, the cross would be hoisted up into the air and then dropped into the hole with a violence that would tear the tissues and cause excruciating pain. The pain of all this was unbearable, but one of the worst aspects of crucifixion was that of suffocation.
The way a person was hung on the cross, with his arms raised and extended, allowed him to inhale but restricted his ability to exhale. Therefore, in an effort to breathe, the crucified would lift himself up on his feet and gasp for air until the pain in his feet would cause him to sag, once again accentuating the pain in the wrists and stopping his breathing. Jesus must have done this countless time during the six hours He hung on the cross.
This torment could continue for two or three days before a person actually died. There have been cases where people lived as long as nine days before death came (Unger’s Bible Dictionary). Therefore, because the Sabbath was approaching (John 19:31-33), the Jews asked Pilate to break the legs of Jesus and the other two who were crucified with Him, so they would no longer be able to lift themselves and would suffocate.
The Inscription On The Cross-
And Pilate also wrote a title (an inscription on a placard) and put it on the cross. And the writing was: Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.
And many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, [and] in Greek.
John 19:19-20 (AMP)
The inscription was written on a placard, which usually consisted of a board smeared with white gypsum and bearing in black letters the name of the condemned criminal and the offense for which was being executed, this was usually hung about the criminal’s neck on the way to the execution and subsequently affixed to the cross over his head. The inscription written for Jesus in Hebrew, Latin and Greek was “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” It is here reproduced in styles current in the first century A.D. All who passed by could read the inscription, written in three languages:
- Jews (who could read Hebrew),
- Romans (who could read Latin), and
- Hellenists (anyone who could read Greek).
Few people reading the sign that bleak afternoon understood its real meaning, but the sign was absolutely true. All was not lost. Jesus was King of the Jews – as well as the Gentiles and the whole universe. It might not have looked that way to those standing there that day, but Jesus, who turns the world’s wisdom upside down, was just coming into his Kingdom. His death and resurrection would strike the deathblow to Satan’s rule and would establish Jesus’ eternal authority over the earth.
Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, Do not write, The King of the Jews, but, He said, I am King of the Jews.
John 19:21 (AMP)
Even in Jesus’ humiliation and death, the truth of who He was prevailed.
Pilate replied, What I have written, I have written.
John 19:22 (AMP)
Pilate had given in to the Jews in letting Jesus be crucified. But he was prepared to go no further. He knew the Jews were envious of Jesus (Matthew 27:18 and Mark 15:10), and this was his way of getting back at them. The Lord used this contention between them and Pilate’s pride to write the proper epitaph.
This is about the most courageous and strongest stand Pilate has taken. But it was too little too late. Eternity will be hard on Pilate.