FROM PALM SUNDAY
TO THE EMPTY TOMB
I: PALM SUNDAY TOWARD JERUSALEM
In the accounts of the four canonical Gospels, Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem takes place a week before his resurrection. Only the Gospel of John shows a timeline of the event, dated six days before the Passover.
Six days before Passover Jesus went back to Bethany, where he had raised Lazarus from death. John 12:1.
Before this, Jesus talked to two of his disciples, taking to himself the ancient Greek word of Lord (κυριος) translated Kýrios, Mark 11:3–4; Luke 19:3; 19:34; Matthew 21:3) written with a capital letter in the original text, as a proper noun.
The raising of Lazarus is mentioned only by the Gospel of John, in the previous chapter. The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches which follows the Byzantine Rite, commemorate it on Lazarus Saturday, following the text of the Gospel. In fact, the Jewish calendar dates begin at sundown of the night beforehand and conclude at nightfall.
Christian theologians believe that the symbolism is captured prophetically in the Old Testament: Zechariah 9:9: “The Coming of Zion’s King – See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”, which is quoted in the Gospels.
It suggests that Jesus was declaring he was the King of Israel, to the anger of the Sanhedrin.
According to the Gospels, Jesus Christ rode on a donkey into Jerusalem, and the celebrating people there laid down their cloaks and small branches of trees in front of him, singing part of Psalm 118: 25–26.
Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of Lent, the beginning of Holy Week, and commemorates the triumphant arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, six days before he was crucified.
In the Gospels, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a young donkey, and to the lavish praise of the townspeople who threw clothes, or possibly palms or small branches, in front of him as a sign of homage. This was a customary practice for people of great respect.
Palm branches are widely recognized symbols of peace and victory, hence their preferred use on Palm Sunday.
The use of a donkey instead of a horse is highly symbolic, it represents the humble arrival of someone in peace, as opposed to arriving on a steed in war.
II: JESUS IN THE TEMPLE
Jesus is stated to have visited the Temple in Jerusalem, where the courtyard is described as being filled with livestock, merchants, and the tables of the money changers, who changed the standard Greek and Roman money for Jewish and Tyrian shekels. Jerusalem was packed with Jews who had come for Passover, perhaps numbering 300,000 to 400,000 pilgrims.
Not long before the Jewish festival of Passover, Jesus went to Jerusalem. There he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves in the temple. He also saw moneychangers sitting at their tables. So he took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins. Jesus said to the people who had been selling doves, “Get those doves out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace.” John 2:13-16.
Driving of the merchants from the temple by Scarsellino
In Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47 Jesus accused the Temple authorities of thieving and this time he names poor widows as their victims, going on to provide evidence of this in Mark 12:42 and Luke 21:2.
Dove sellers were selling doves that were sacrificed by the poor who could not afford grander sacrifices and specifically by women. According to Mark 11:16, Jesus then put an embargo on people carrying any merchandise through the Temple, a sanction which would have disrupted all commerce. This occurred in the outermost court of the gentiles.
The Temple leaders questioned Jesus if he was aware the children were shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Matthew 21:14-16: Blind and lame people came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them. But the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses were angry when they saw his miracles and heard the children shouting praises to the Son of David. The men said to Jesus, “Don’t you hear what those children are saying?” “Yes, I do!” Jesus answered. “Don’t you know that the Scriptures say, ‘Children and infants will sing praises’?”
Jesus responded by saying “from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” This phrase incorporates a phrase from Psalm 8:2, With praises from children and from tiny infants, you have built a fortress. It makes your enemies silent, and all who turn against you are left speechless.
III: JESUS AND THE PASSOVER
When John the Baptist stepped forward in John 1:29 and introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God, he did so as the final Old Testament prophet, the son of a priest, and as the chosen forerunner of Christ.
He identified Jesus as the Passover Lamb of God, how powerful, complete and transforming is that truth. Think of the dramatic sequence God had planned just on the day of Christ’s crucifixion. On the day Christ died on the Cross – for our sins, it was the fourteenth day of Abib, A.D. 33.
At the third hour (9:00 AM), Israel’s high priest tied the Passover lamb to the altar for sacrifice. At that exact moment outside the city walls of Jerusalem, Jesus, the Lamb of God, was nailed to the cross.
For six hours both the Passover lamb and Jesus the Lamb of God, awaited death. Finally, at the ninth hour (3:00 PM), the high priest ascended the altar in the temple and sacrificed the Passover lamb.
At that exact moment from the Cross Christ’s words thundered out, “It is finished!”
On Calvary’s stark mountain, God the Father, the final High Priest of all creation, placed His holy hand on the head of His only begotten Son, allowing the total sin of the world to descend upon Jesus. Barely able to lift His blood-spattered face toward heaven, Jesus shouted in triumph, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
Jesus as the Lamb of God summarizes God’s Word completely. It is the greatest summary of Who Christ WAS, What HE DID, and how we participate.
When God gave Moses and Aaron the rules for the Passover, some might have sounded unconventional—for example, the clear prohibition against breaking any bones of the lamb that was sacrificed and eaten by each household. Why did God insist on this?
This command—that the Passover lamb does not have its legs broken—carries symbolic weight. When Jesus, whom John the Baptist proclaimed to be “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), was crucified, not one of his bones was broken. John 19:31-34 tells us that when the soldiers came to Jesus to break his legs to hasten his death, they found that he was already dead, so they pierced his side with a spear but did not break his legs.
As John testifies, “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken’” (John 19:36). The Exodus 12:46 rule is also echoed prophetically in Psalms 34:20: “He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” To the last detail of his death, Jesus fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Messiah, verifying that he was, as John the Baptist claimed, the sacrificial Lamb of God.
Did you know that for centuries Passover lambs were raised in Bethlehem? In those shepherds’ fields outside Bethlehem, a special breed of sacrificial lamb was raised and nurtured to be brought to Jerusalem at Passover to be slaughtered to cover the people’s sins. How fitting that Mary’s Lamb, God’s perfect Lamb, the Lord Jesus, would be born there! And He was born in a stable. How fitting that a sacrificial Lamb would be born in a stable! This Lamb came to be the final Passover lamb, the one sacrificed for sin forever. Your destiny, my destiny, the destiny of the world was wrapped up in Mary’s little Lamb.
He did not have His beginning that night in Bethlehem, however. Mary’s Lamb is the Lord of heaven, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. He is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), prophesied centuries before His birth.
In Exodus God said, “Take the lamb’s blood and put it on the doorposts and lintel of the house. My angel of judgment is coming through the land of Egypt, but when I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Now, they could have put a perfect living lamb outside that door, but it would have done no good. Salvation does not come from the life of Christ but from the death of Christ.
Passover is one of the most important holidays on the Jewish calendar. Not only does it serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness, but it points to the Lamb of God, the Messiah, who served as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin. This is the reason God commanded the Jewish people to observe the Feast of Passover from generation to generation.
Year after year, Passover reminded the Jewish people of the Lord’s faithfulness to His promises. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and that his descendants would inherit the land of Israel as an eternal possession. But years later, the Jewish people found themselves enslaved in the land of Egypt. It would be understandable if they questioned God’s faithfulness, since the promise of a homeland seemed to have been broken.
But God proved faithful and raised up a deliverer, Moses, to lead His people into freedom. When Pharaoh refused to let the Jewish people go, God sent ten plagues—the tenth being the death of all firstborn sons. Although the plague would have impacted everyone, God provided the way for Israel to be saved. All those who put the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their homes were “passed over” by the angel of death, and the lives of their firstborn sons were spared. The death of Pharaoh’s firstborn son drove him to release the Israelites, and God delivered them with a mighty, outstretched arm.
Passover is also significant because it points to an even greater event than that of the Exodus: the death of the ultimate Passover Lamb, Jesus the Messiah, who redeems us from sin. The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth, “Messiah our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus laid his life down on Passover, fulfilling the requirements of the sacrificial system. He was the ultimate unblemished Lamb to which all the Passover lambs pointed.
The Feast of the Passover fell on 14th Nisan, about the 14 April. The Feast of Unleavened Bread consisted of the seven days following the Passover. The Passover was a major feast and was kept like a Sabbath. The Feast of Passover was one of three compulsory feasts. The other two were the Feast of Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Passover lamb was unblemished—Jesus was similarly untainted by sin. In the same way the high priest transferred a Jewish person’s sins onto an innocent lamb as a substitutionary sacrifice, our sins Jesus took upon Himself—both cases of the innocent dying for the guilty. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:5–6).
IV: JESUS INSTITUTED THE LORD’S SUPPER
When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He gave us three great truths.
!. The Lord’s Supper replaces the Passover meal.
2. The Lord’s Supper Recalls His Vicarious Sacrifice.
3. The Lord’s Supper Represents the New Covenant.
The next time you observe the Lord’s Supper, feast on these great truths!
The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus Christ during his last week before his crucifixion (Matthew 26:17-30).
On the first day of the Festival of Thin Bread, Jesus’ disciples came to him and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal?” Jesus told them to go to a certain man in the city and tell him, “Our teacher says, ‘My time has come! I want to eat the Passover meal with my disciples in your home.’ They did as Jesus told them and prepared the meal. When Jesus was eating with his twelve disciples that evening, he said, “One of you will surely hand me over to my enemies.” The disciples were very sad, and each one said to Jesus, “Lord, you can’t mean me!” He answered, “One of you men who has eaten with me from this dish will betray me. The Son of Man will die, as the Scriptures say. But it’s going to be terrible for the one who betrays me! That man would be better off if he had never been born.” Judas said, “Teacher, you surely don’t mean me!” “That’s what you say!” Jesus replied. But later, Judas did betray him. During the meal Jesus took some bread in his hands. He blessed the bread and broke it. Then he gave it to his disciples and said, “Take this and eat it. This is my body.” Jesus picked up a cup of wine and gave thanks to God. He then gave it to his disciples and said, “Take this and drink it. This is my blood, and with it God makes his agreement with you. It will be poured out, so that many people will have their sins forgiven. From now on I am not going to drink any wine, until I drink new wine with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
This week fell during the time of the Jewish holidays, the Passover Feast and the week of Unleavened Bread (Matthew 26:17). The Lord’s Supper does share some features common to the Jewish Passover, which also focused on a meal. In each case, the elements of the meal symbolized specific events, ideas, or objects that were of great significance. The meal provided a time for a group’s common reflection and the significance of the objects behind the emblems.
Beside the gospel accounts of Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-20), we have one other passage that provides detailed information, I Corinthians 11:17-34. This additional passage is a rebuke from the apostle Paul to the Corinthian church, which was abusing this memorial supper. Besides these passages, we have only traces and references of detail. With these passages and a few others at our disposal, we look to the Bible to see what God’s will for our observance of the Lord’s Supper is.
God told Moses on the night of the institution of the Passover Feast the Israelites were to choose a firstborn lamb without spot or blemish. They were to kill the lamb, roast it, and eat it. Additionally, they were to dip hyssop into its blood, and strike the doorposts of the house in which they were staying. That night God’s avenger killed the firstborn of each house that did not have blood on the doorposts. Many lambs’ lives were sacrificed so that the children of Israel might live.
God continued to use this symbol in His requirements for worship in their covenant. Every year the Israelites sacrificed two goats as atonement for their sins (Leviticus 16:1-34). Throughout the year sacrifices were offered for every trespass and sin. In each case the one who violated God’s law was to bring forth a sacrifice, usually a young bull, lamb, or goat, kill it before the priest, and the priest would offer it as an atoning sacrifice to the Lord (Leviticus 4:1-5:7).
The temple, the focal point of these sacrifices, became a bloody place, filled with the blood of countless animal sacrifices. For each sacrifice the sinner had to lay his hands on the animal’s head and then kill it.
The innocent animal suffered for their sins. What was the lesson they must have learned? Sin has profound penalties and consequences. Something was required to pay the price.
Animal sacrifices could never justify the souls of the people for whom they atoned. Justice will not allow an animal’s life to substitute for that of a man. The consequences of man’s sin were greater than any animal could bear, so something, or someone equally worth a man’s soul had to be offered. These sacrifices served merely as illustrations of the gravity and consequences of sin and our need for a redeemer, until the true Redeemer came.
In addition to considering the sacrifice of Christ, we are to consider the implications upon our lives. We are to judge ourselves. Are we partaking in a worthy manner? No one is worthy of the sacrifice of Christ. It is truly a gift (Romans 6:23), but the manner in which we partake is to be worthy. Are we giving all diligence to follow and obey Christ? Or is our commitment a halfhearted commitment?
By using the supper as an opportunity to reflect upon lives, we judge ourselves now, repent of our sins, gain forgiveness through Christ’s blood, and avoid the condemnation of God. Therefore, the supper serves as a time to focus on our priorities, commitment, and the direction we are taking in our life.
Also, the supper serves as a means to “proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes”. In addition to being a reflective memorial, both past and inward, it is a forward-looking memorial that is to be observed until He returns. The hope extended by Christ’s sacrifice is a powerful, buoyant ideal that helps to keep our heads above the water until the Last Day.
V: JESUS AND THE DISCIPLES AT GETHSEMANE
Gethsemane (/ɡɛθˈsɛməni/) is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem where, according to the four Gospels of the New Testament, Jesus underwent the agony in the garden and was arrested the night before his crucifixion. It is a place of great resonance in Christianity. There are several small olive groves in church property, all adjacent to each other and identified with biblical Gethsemane.
According to the New Testament it was a place that Jesus and his disciples customarily visited, which allowed Judas Iscariot to find him on the night of his arrest.
There are four locations, all of them at or near the western foot of the Mount of Olives, officially claimed by different denominations to be the place where Jesus prayed on the night he was betrayed.
- The garden at the Catholic Church of All Nations, built over the “Rock of the Agony”.
- The location near the Tomb of the Virgin Mary to the north.
- The Greek Orthodox location to the east.
- The Russian Orthodox orchard, next to the Church of Mary Magdalene.
William McClure Thomson, author of The Land and the Book, first published in 1880, wrote: “When I first came to Jerusalem, and for many years afterward, this plot of ground was open to all whenever they chose to come and meditate beneath its very old olive trees. The Latins, however, have within the last few years succeeded in gaining sole possession, and have built a high wall around it. The Greeks have invented another site a little to the north of it. My own impression is that both are wrong. The position is too near the city, and so close to what must have always been the great thoroughfare eastward, that our Lord would scarcely have selected it for retirement on that dangerous and dismal night. I am inclined to place the garden in the secluded vale several hundred yards to the north-east of the present Gethsemane.
All of the foregoing is based on long-held tradition and the conflating of the synoptic accounts of Mark (14:31) and Matthew (26:36) with the Johannine account (John 18:1). Mark and Matthew record that Jesus went to “a place called the oil press (Gethsemane)” and John states he went to a garden near the Kidron Valley. Modern scholarship acknowledges that the exact location of Gethsemane is unknown.
According to Luke 22:43–44, Jesus’ anguish on the Mount of Olives (Luke does not mention Gethsemane; Luke 22:39–40) was so deep that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
VI: JESUS BETRAYAL AND ARREST
In the narrative of the arrest and betrayal of Jesus, a few characters stand out.
1: There is Judas the traitor
Judas knew that the people knew Jesus well enough by sight. But he chose the terrible of signs – a kiss. It was customary to greet a rabbi with a kiss. It was a sign of respect and affection for a well-loved teacher. When Judas says, “Whom I shall kiss, that is He” he used the word phileo which is the ordinary word. But when it is said that he came forward and kissed Jesus the word is kataphileo. Now the κατα- is intensive and καταphileo is the word for “to kiss as a lover kisses his beloved”. The sign of the betrayal was not a mere formal kiss of respectful greeting. It was a lover’s kiss. That is the grimmest and most terrible thing in all the gospel story.
2: There is the arresting mob.
They came from the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. These were the three sections of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews. Even under Roman jurisdiction the Sanhedrin had certain police rights and duties in Jerusalem and had its own police force. No doubt an assorted rabble had attached themselves to them on the way.
3: The man who drew his sword.
John 18:10 identifies this man as Peter
4: There are the disciples.
No doubt the disciples felt they would share the fate of Jesus.
VII: JESUS AND THE TRIAL
Things are now moving quickly to their inevitable end. The powers of the Sanhedrin were limited because the Romans were the rulers of the country. The Sanhedrin had full powers over religious matters and questions. It seems to have had a certain amount of police court power.
Jesus before the Sanhedrin
There is no doubt that in the trial of Jesus the Sanhedrin broke all its own laws. The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews. It had no power to inflict the death penalty. The Sanhedrin was composed of seventy-one members. Within the membership there were Sadducees – the priestly classes were all Sadducees – Pharisees and Scribes, who were experts in the law and respected men who were elders.
It was forbidden to ask questions by answering which the person on trial might incriminate himself. But we see the immense courage of Jesus. Two great characteristics emerge:
- We see His courage.
- We see His confidence.
VIII: THE SILENCE OF JESUS
Early the next morning the chief priests, the nation’s leaders, and the teachers of the Law of Moses met together with the whole Jewish council. They tied up Jesus and led him off to Pilate. He asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Those are your words,” Jesus answered. The chief priests brought many charges against Jesus. Then Pilate questioned him again, “Don’t you have anything to say? Don’t you hear what crimes they say you have done?” But Jesus did not answer, and Pilate was amazed.
There is a time when silence is more eloquent than words.
IX: THE CHOICE OF THE MOB
During Passover, Pilate always freed one prisoner chosen by the people. And at that time there was a prisoner named Barabbas. He and some others had been arrested for murder during a riot. The crowd now came and asked Pilate to set a prisoner free, just as he usually did. Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to free the king of the Jews?” Pilate knew that the chief priests had brought Jesus to him because they were jealous. But the chief priests told the crowd to ask Pilate to free Barabbas. Then Pilate asked the crowd, “What do you want me to do with this man you say is the king of the Jews?” They yelled, “Nail him to a cross!” Pilate asked, “But what crime has he done?” “Nail him to a cross!” they yelled even louder. Pilate wanted to please the crowd. So he set Barabbas free. Then he ordered his soldiers to beat Jesus with a whip and nail him to a cross.
It has always been a mystery that less than a week before the crowd were shouting a welcome when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and now they are shrieking for his crucifixion.
Confronted with the choice between Jesus and Barabbas, they chose Barabbas without hesitation.
1: They chose lawlessness instead of law.
2: They chose war instead of peace.
3: They chose hatred and violence instead of love.
The Roman scourge was a terrible thing. The criminal was bent and bound in such a way that his back was exposed. The scourge was a long leather thong, studded here and there with sharpened pieces of lead and bits of bone. Some men died under it. Some men emerged from the ordeal raving mad. Few remained conscious through it. It was that that they did to Jesus.
X: THE CROSS
The first step in Jesus’ trial was a preliminary examination in a private night proceeding before Annas, who had been high priest. This was an unproductive meeting because Caiaphas (Annas’ son-in-law) was actually the high priest that year. Annas finally bound Jesus and sent Him to Caiaphas (John 18:12-13, 19-23).
The horror of crucifixion helps make it clearer to us how despicable sin really is. Many methods of execution usually take but a moment of time; crucifixion was deliberately designed to be a prolonged, extremely painful and humiliating death.
And our Saviour was willing to offer Himself as a sacrifice for your sins and mine because of the great love that He and our Heavenly Father have for us (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16).
As a matter of fact, the death of Jesus the Christ is the central act of God’s plan for the salvation of humankind, established long before the Genesis account of creation. As the apostle Peter explained, our ransom was paid by the precious blood of Christ: “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
“He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:17-21).
We can be very thankful that Jesus was willing to die. Without the crucifixion of Jesus, all of us would still be convicted sinners and at enmity with God and without any hope for the future. Our godly sorrow and our thankfulness should motivate us to repent, to change and commit to living a life that is pleasing to God and Jesus Christ.
The crucifixion of Jesus occurred in 1st-century Judea, most likely in either AD 30 or AD 33. Jesus’ crucifixion is described in the four canonical gospels, referred to in the New Testament epistles, attested to by other ancient sources, and is established as a historical event confirmed by non-Christian sources, although there is no consensus among historians on the exact details.
According to the canonical gospels, Jesus was arrested and tried by the Sanhedrin, and then sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally crucified by the Romans. Jesus was stripped of his clothing and offered vinegar mixed with myrrh or gall (likely posca), to drink after saying “I am thirsty”. He was then hung between two convicted thieves and, according to the Gospel of Mark, died by the 9th hour of the day (at around 3:00 p.m.). During this time, the soldiers affixed a sign to the top of the cross stating “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” which, according to the Gospel of John (John 19:20), was written in three languages (Hebrew, Latin, and Greek).
They then divided his garments among themselves and cast lots for his seamless robe, according to the Gospel of John. According to the Gospel of John, after Jesus’ death, one soldier (named in extra-Biblical tradition as Longinus) pierced his side with a spear to be certain that he had died, then blood and water gushed from the wound. The Bible describes seven statements that Jesus made while he was on the cross, as well as several supernatural events that occurred.
XI: JESUS’ SEVEN WORDS FROM THE CROSS
Collectively referred to as the Passion, Jesus’ suffering and redemptive death by crucifixion are the central aspects of Christian theology concerning the doctrines of salvation and atonement.
The Roman soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs, as they did to the two crucified thieves (breaking the legs hastened the onset of death), as Jesus was dead already. Each gospel has its own account of Jesus’ last words, seven statements altogether. In the Synoptic Gospels, various supernatural events accompany the crucifixion, including darkness, an earthquake, and (in Matthew) the resurrection of saints. Following Jesus’ death, his body was removed from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea and buried in a rock-hewn tomb, with Nicodemus assisting.
Simon of Cyrene carrying the Cross
The three Synoptic gospels describe Simon of Cyrene bearing the cross, a crowd of people mocking Jesus along with the thieves/robbers/rebels, darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour, and the temple veil being torn from top to bottom. These Gospels also mention several witnesses, including a centurion, and several women who watched from a distance, two of whom were present during the burial.
Luke is the only gospel writer to omit the detail of sour wine mix that was offered to Jesus on a reed, while only Mark and John describe Joseph actually taking the body down off the cross.
There are several details that are only mentioned in a single gospel account. For instance, only Matthew’s gospel mentions an earthquake, resurrected saints who went to the city and that Roman soldiers were assigned to guard the tomb, while Mark is the only one to state the time of the crucifixion (the third hour, or 9 a.m. – and the centurion’s report of Jesus’ death.
The Gospel of Luke’s unique contributions to the narrative include Jesus’ words to the women who were mourning, one criminal’s rebuke of the other, the reaction of the multitudes who left “beating their breasts”, and the women preparing spices and ointments before resting on the Sabbath. John is also the only one to refer to the request that the legs be broken and the soldier’s subsequent piercing of Jesus’ side (as fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy), as well as that Nicodemus assisted Joseph with burial.
1st Saying: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
2nd Saying: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
3rd Saying: He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” (John 19:26-27).
4th Saying: Jesus then cried out His fourth statement while on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34)
5th Saying: Jesus then spoke the fifth saying: “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). This statement was also prophesied by King David, saying, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth” (Psalm 22:15). John records one of the Roman soldiers bringing a sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant.
6th Saying: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). As Jesus felt that the time had come, the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell us that Jesus shouted out loudly, but they do not tell us what He shouted. It is only John that gives us the one word in Greek, tetelestai. [τετελεσται]. Translated as “it is finished” in many translations in English, this is not a shout of weariness, but a great victory. Jesus pushed Himself up one more time filling His lungs and shouted out for the entire world to hear. “It is finished!” (tetelestai) was a word used in accounting in the common Greek language of the day. When a man’s debt was paid, it was tetelestai. It means to make an end of, complete, or accomplish something, not merely ending it, but bringing it to perfection or its stated goal. It also means to pay in full, as in a tax or tribute. This shout was a cry of triumph! It was accomplished, paid in full, no debt remaining to God’s people. They are free! No wonder Christ shouted. He wanted the world to know that the debt of sin was paid. God’s judgment and justice had been atoned (to make amends and to reconcile).
7th Saying: As this shout was still ringing around Golgotha, His last words, His seventh saying from the cross was spoken, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” (Luke 23:46). With this last saying, Jesus gave up His spirit.
XII: JESUS IS ALIVE
The body of Jesus was placed in the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathaea, a member of the Sanhedrin. It is suggested that Joseph may have been the person that told people about what occurred when Jesus was before the Sanhedrin. The disciples definitely would not have been with the Sanhedrin.
After the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James bought some spices to put on Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just as the sun was coming up, they went to the tomb. On their way, they were asking one another, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance for us?” But when they looked, they saw that the stone had already been rolled away. And it was a huge stone! The women went into the tomb, and on the right side they saw a young man in a white robe sitting there. They were alarmed. The man said, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus from Nazareth, who was nailed to a cross. God has raised him to life, and he isn’t here. You can see the place where they put his body. Now go and tell his disciples, and especially Peter, that he will go ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.” When the women ran from the tomb, they were confused and shaking all over. They were too afraid to tell anyone what had happened.
There had been no time to undertake the last services to the body of Jesus. The Sabbath had intervened. Tombs had no doors so the tomb was protected by a large stone rolled across the entrance. The women were worried about how they were going to open the entrance into the tomb.
We can imagine the amazement the women felt when they came to the tomb, say the stone rolled away and a young man sitting inside the tomb. If Jesus had not risen from the tomb we would never have heard of Him. The best proof of the Resurrection is the existence of the Christian church. Nothing else could have changed sad and despairing men and women into people radiant with joy and flaming with courage. The Resurrection is the central fact of the whole Christian faith.
- Jesus is not a figure in a book. He is a living presence
- Jesus is not a memory, He is a presence. Time would have wiped out the memory of Jesus unless He had been a living presence forever with us.
- The Christian life is not the life of a person who knows about Jesus but of a person who knows
- There is an endless quality about the Christian faith. It should never stand still. Because Jesus is a living Lord there are new wonders and new truths waiting to be discovered all the time.
- The most precious thing in the above text is in two words which are in no other Gospel. “Go,” said the messenger. “Tell His disciples and Peter.” How those words must have cheered Peter’s heart when he got it! He must have been tortured with the memory of his disloyalty, and suddenly there comes a message, a special message for him.
It is characteristic of Jesus that He thought, not about the wrong Peter had done to Him, but of the remorse that Peter was undergoing. Jesus was far more eager to comfort the penitent sinner than to punish the sin.
The Bible quotations are from the Contemporary English Version, American Bible Society 1995.