Synthesis of Crucifixion Day (Click here for a .pdf of the chart below. Feel free to print out for personal study.)
(Click image for larger view).
It’s no surprise that this most pivotal day of human history has the most details given in Scripture. Perhaps they aren’t given in the way we like things given today. There’s 4 Gospel records and the design behind which Gospel gets to tell which detail is far beyond us. In fact, the way the Lord has given us the Scriptures means that I am at no loss at all to, say, read Matthew straight through. Several facts are missing, but the great theme shines through.
Still, as I study God’s Word, I may want to put those details together for my own study. Who could blame me? That day made forgiveness, salvation, and Heaven itself all possible for me. It seems as one grows as a Christian there will always be a growing, healthy fascination about Christ–what He did, Who He is, and on and on. That will entail the production of a Harmony of the Gospels. Many exist. Most are fairly standard, except for a few hard-to-pin-down places. Only those who can’t come to grips with the idea of an infallible Word might shun the whole idea.
What some Harmonies fail to do is slow down at the Crucifixion. Each Gospel gives from a third to a half of its pages to that week. There is a reason for that. Then the pace slows even more for the day of the Crucifixion. My approach on the above chart is totally geared toward our culture. Midnight not only didn’t start a new day for those in Jesus’ time, but also it didn’t mean anything to them. Their day began with sundown. That’s totally unusual to we who even wait up till midnight to watch the new year come in.
Jesus makes it to the Garden of Gethsemane on this day. The horrors, the betrayal, and the arrest all happen after dark and so on this new day. By the time midnight comes Jesus has already endured at least part of the 3 religious trials He faced before Jewish authorities. Peter denied 3 times and ran off weeping. It was already a hectic day before our midnight kicked in. Here our chart picks up.
Dawn came pretty early then in those days of no daylight savings time. The custom of that day would be to get up early and get going, so Jesus’ civil trial before the Roman authorities all being done before 9 a.m. would not be not that remarkable. Even though we think of His suffering starting a little later, He probably has had no sleep in 24 hours (unless He caught a cat nap while being held till morning), He had a near-death experience in the Garden, and He suffered one of the most gut-wrenching betrayals ever known at the hands of Judas. Those supposedly still on His team are shivering in their sandals somewhere. Plus the trial had been a joke. One terrible false accusation after another has been hurled at Him. Finally, He is scourged with a cat-o-nine tails whip and is forced to carry His Own cross. No wonder He collapsed under the weight of the main beam of the cross.
By 9 a.m. He is actually hanging from that cross facing one of the most gruesome execution methods ever devised. Here’s where a synthesis of the Gospel records proves handy. So much happened. There were 3 hours of light and interaction with those around Him including much ridicule. He, as you surely know, never wavers. The three statements He makes during this time prove that pain and suffering couldn’t squeeze His great love out of Him.
At Noon a darkness overtakes all around. It was a darkness you could almost feel. You can sense an edginess by many. The suffering intensifies as every moment brings Him closer to death. What might not be obvious in any one Gospel record is that He gives His last 4 statements near the end. These all have to do with the agony of the sin He bears for us. “It is finished” is profound in its meaning, and exhaustive in its scope. All that could ever be required for my sin is given here.
At 3 p.m. He dies. More accurately, we say He laid down his life as He chose the time and the place. No person in Jerusalem that day could ever forget what it was like at 3 p.m. that day!
Others things happen, as you can see on the chart, but are rarely discussed as what happened at 3 p.m. eclipses all. Can you imagine how those women felt who left at dark after watching the stone being fully in place at His tomb? Remember for them it ended the Day of the Crucifixion. For us it might as well have even though midnight was roughly 6 hours away. Put a marker in your mind for that ending day as it set in motion a 3-day period that at its end will melt all the gloom there away forever.
Questions For Study
1. How do our customs affect how we view the story of the Crucifixion?
2. What is the difference in how the 4 Gospels present the story to how we looked at it in our chart?
3. What are your thoughts on the scope of Christ’s suffering?
4. Describe your thoughts on the few minutes before and after His actual death.
5. Compare and contrast the Day of the Crucifixion and the Day of the Resurrection.