The crucifixion of Jesus is without question the hardest event recorded in the Bible. It’s a harsh tale that shocks us, not just because of its grisly details but because the Bible repeatedly describes it as an act of love.
The crucifixion of Jesus is without question the hardest event recorded in the Bible. It’s a harsh tale that shocks us, not just because of its grisly details but because the Bible repeatedly describes it as an act of love. This Easter, consider the following about the crucifixion.
Get your FREE Holy Week Guide here. Have encouragement delivered straight to your inbox!
What Led Up to Jesus' Crucifixion?
Several events lead up to Jesus’ crucifixion, which many denominations celebrate over the seven days of Holy Week.
First, Jesus came into Jerusalem riding a donkey, greeted by a crowd which upsets the priests. Over several days he taught his disciples and spoke in public, as well as causing a stir by clearing the temple. Judas agreed to betray Jesus during this period.
Then on a Thursday evening, Jesus held the Last Supper with his disciples, washing their feet and giving his last teaching. He singled out Judas as his betrayer and tells Peter he would deny him three times.
Jesus and his disciples then went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus asked God if there was any way to avoid his death but submitted himself to God’s will. Judas arrived with a group to arrest Jesus; Peter resisted with a sword but Jesus rebuked him for doing so. The crowd took Jesus to the Jewish priests, and in a late-night meeting of the Sanhedrin, Jesus was found guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be God’s son.
Friday morning, Jesus was sent to Pilate and then to King Herod, neither of which found any reason to charge him with a crime. Pilate then presented Jesus before an assembly, offering him or a criminal named Barabbas for release as part of his usual Passover procedure. Manipulated by the leaders, the crowd demanded that Jesus be crucified. Pilate reluctantly conceded to this request.
Why Is the Crucifixion so Important?
Jesus’ death is central to the Gospel story. As Paul describes it in Romans, we are born sinners and therefore fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). By dying for us, God showed his great love for us (Romans 5:8), and freed everyone who believes in Jesus to be saved (Romans 10:9-10).
While we frequently talk about how the crucifixion broke the bondage of sin, it accomplished other things too.
When Jesus died on the cross, he defeated “the powers and authorities” (Colossians 2:15), meaning the devil and other spiritual beings who oppose God. Before his death, he described it as the time when “Satan, the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31). So the crucifixion allowed Jesus to defeat the devil, claiming the world for his own again and advancing the kingdom of God.
After we place our faith in Jesus, we begin the path to sanctification, where we spiritually mature to become more like Christ. The term Christian literally means “little Christs” and in Christ, we are new creations (2 Cor 5:17) learning to become more like him. So the crucifixion not only saved us from death, it opened the door for a new life.
We also know that Jesus’ death was God performing an act of incredible mercy and love for humanity (as demonstrated in Romans 5:8). We learn from that act that God is not only interested in us, he loves us deeply and made a great sacrifice for us. We are called as Christians to follow that example (1 Peter 2:21-25) and pursue an attitude of love, honor, and mercy.
Where Can We Find this Event in the Bible?
Because the Gospels were first written without chapters, there’s not always a clean break between one chapter and then the next one. This means that in some of the Gospels, the events of Holy Week bleed into each other. You can try starting with the point in Matthew or Mark where Jesus is being crucified, but it feels disjointed because it builds on what happened right before.
Therefore, if you’re looking to read the story of Jesus being crucified and want to experience it as a full story, it will probably read best if you start with Jesus being betrayed, which is recorded in Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:32-52, Luke 22:47-53, and John 18:1-10. It’s particularly worth doing this for Matthew and Mark because they include an interesting detail right before the crucifixion, where the soldiers mock Jesus and give him a crown of thorns (Matthew 27:27-31, Mark 15:16-20).
If you want to get right to the action though, the crucifixion story begins with Jesus being taken by the soldiers to be crucified. This event is recorded in Matthew 27:32-55, Mark 15:21-32, Luke 23:26-49, and John 19:16-36.
5 Beautiful Reminders about the Crucifixion
Obviously, there are many things we should remember about Jesus’ death. However, there are some things we don’t talk about much in church or other Christian circles. Here are reminders about aspects of the crucifixion we often forget:
It was a high cost to pay. We often talk about how the cross showed Jesus’ love for us (and that’s certainly important) but aren’t always comfortable with the painful elements of the story. We must remember that a cross is a terrible thing to die on, and we trivialize what happened if we downplay the pain that Jesus endured. The Bible explicitly talks about that pain in places like 1 Peter 2:24, reminding us that it is only “by his wounds you are healed.”
It seems foolish at first. One of the things we must learn as Christians is that God’s ways are not ours, and what seems bizarre to us may just be God working things in a way we don’t understand yet. 1 Corinthians 1:18 describes the message of the cross as “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
As believers, we are crucified too. In Galatians 2:20, Paul uses crucifixion imagery to describe the new life that Christians receive, how their old lives are put to death. He says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.” Graphic as this image is, it shows us just how important it was to turn away from sin and radical this new life is.
It wiped our slate clean. Before the crucifixion, we were sinful human beings who were worthy of judgment. We could not possibly begin to pay for our own sins, but Jesus paid that debt for us. As Colossians 2:13-14 puts it, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”
It brought grace even for the least worthy. Jesus was crucified along with two thieves. According to the Gospel of Luke, one of these thieves mocked Jesus for claiming to God but the other rebuked him. The second thief asked Jesus to remember him, and Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Even at our last moments, even if we have made many mistakes and are paying the ultimate price for those choices, Jesus’ death makes mercy possible for us.
10 Powerful Facts About the Cross of Christ & His Crucifixion
What Do We Know about the Crucifixion of Jesus?
Crucifixion of Jesus - Bible Story
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/olegkalina
G. Connor Salter is a writer and editor, with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing from Taylor University. In 2020, he won First Prize for Best Feature Story in a regional contest by the Colorado Press Association Network. He has contributed over 1,000 articles to various publications, including interviews for Christian Communicator and book reviews for The Evangelical Church Library Association. Find out more about his work here.